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 Although the governor apologized to Hector for the poorness of the repast and the haste with which it had been prepared, it was really excellent, consisting of soup, some fish fresh from the river, a cutlet, and an omelette, with a bottle of good wine of Asti. Paolo's wants had been attended to in the kitchen. It was six o'clock when they started. The officer in command had already received his instructions, and the governor accompanied Hector to the door, where two horses were standing saddled. “They are not your own,” he said, “but are two of mine. I thought that yours had made a sufficiently long journey today.”
Thanking him for his kindness, Hector mounted, and took his place by the side of Captain Simon, while Paolo fell in with the orderlies riding close behind.
“I presume, monsieur, that you are going to obtain some information for Viscount Turenne. I don't want to ask any questions as to the nature of your mission, but as I have orders to bring back with the horses your cloaks and hats, I presume that in the first place you are going on foot, and in the second, you are going in disguise.”
“Your judgment is correct, captain. The viscount wishes to obtain certain information, and I am going to fetch it for him, if I can.”
“I hope that you will be successful, sir. It is a good night for travelling, the stars are bright and the moon down, so that you will have light enough to keep the road, and time enough to step aside should you meet any party who might be inclined to question all passersby.”
“Do you know the roads well about here?” Hector asked.
“I was stationed in Turin before the enemy came with too great a force to be resisted.”
“I want to strike across the country, and to come into the road from Turin to Casale at a distance of three or four miles from the city.”
“A mile or so away a road branches off from this which keeps by the river. It is a mere country road, and except in two or three small villages that you will pass through, you are not likely to meet with anyone upon it. It is about eight miles to the main road from the point where you turn off, and you will then be five miles from Turin. It is just possible that you may meet patrols, but I should think it very unlikely; now that our army has gone into winter quarters at Carignano, they are not likely to be very vigilant.”
As they rode along Hector related some of the incidents of the late battle. No signs of the enemy were met with, and the officer presently said, “I am sorry to say that this is the point where you leave us, monsieur. I wish it had been a little farther, so that I could hear more of the fight.”
Hector and Paolo dismounted. Two troopers were called up and took charge of their horses, while the cloaks and hats were given to the officer's orderly, then the two lads put on the Savoyard hats they had carried under their cloaks. The officer took two packets from his holster.
“The colonel bade me give this to you at starting,” he said. “He thought that after a long walk on foot you would want some slight refreshment before the inns were open in the morning.”
“Will you please give him my hearty thanks for his thoughtfulness,” Hector said, “and accept the same yourself for your courtesy in escorting me.”
“Now we are fairly on our way, Paolo,” he went on as he turned down the lane, for it was little more; “this package is a bottle of wine, and the one that I have handed to you contains the eatables.”
“That is good, master. We shall find it pretty cold before morning, and there is nothing like a good meal to warm one up again.”
“Did you get the bow and arrows at Chivasso?”
“Yes, sir. I went out and bought them as soon as we got there. I wanted them, I told the man, for a boy of ten years old, but all he had were a good deal too long, which I was glad of, for a child's bow would hardly have been strong enough, so I made him cut one down until it was not more than three feet long. That way I shall be able, as we agreed, to carry it under my doublet. Of course it will make me walk stiffly, and there will be no possibility of sitting down, but that matters not at all. It is all the stronger, and will send an arrow a good distance. I have got six arrows as you ordered me. They are regular arrows, but I made the man shorten them so as to suit the bow, and then repoint them. I have got them inside my doublet. I tied them together, made a hole in the lining under the arm, and put them in.”
“You have not forgotten the cord, I hope, Paolo?”
“Not I, master. I should have deserved having my ears cut off if I had done so.”
They were in no hurry, and walked only fast enough to keep themselves warm. In two hours and a half they arrived at the main road and turned to the right. “Now we will go another couple of miles, Paolo, and then look out for a sleeping place. An empty barn or stable or a stack of fodder is what we want. We may as well sleep warm as cold. We shall not want to be moving on till seven o'clock.”
After walking three miles they came upon a small village.
“Do you stay here, master, I will go round and see if I can find a place. I am more accustomed to these villages than you are.”
In five minutes he returned. “I have found a capital place,” he said. “It is a stable, but it is empty. No doubt the Spaniards have taken the horses, and are using them in their transport wagons.”
“It is enough for us that the place is empty, Paolo.”
The door stood ajar. They entered and closed it behind them, and they then felt about until they found a pile of rough fodder. They pulled some of this aside, lay down and covered themselves up with the stalks they had removed, and in three minutes were fast asleep, for they had had a long day's work. Hector slept until he was awakened by Paolo, who said, “The day is breaking, and the village will be astir in a few minutes.” The weather had changed, and as they stepped out fine flakes of snow were drifting through the air, and the ground was already whitened. They regained the road and walked along until they came to a wood.
“We may as well wait here and breakfast, Paolo.” The parcel was opened and found to contain a cold capon and some bread, and on these and the wine they made a capital breakfast, each taking a long sip at the bottle to the health of the colonel. “The market people are beginning to come along, and we may as well buy something from them going in. If we have not something to sell it is not unlikely that we shall be asked questions.” It was now broad daylight, and they saw several peasants pass along the road, some with baskets, others driving a pig or a goat.
“Either of these would do,” Hector said; “but we don't know where the market is, and it would never do to seem ignorant of that.” The snow had stopped suddenly some minutes before, and the sun was now shining.
“That is lucky,” Hector said as they walked down towards the road, “we may hope that there will be no more snow and that the sun will soon melt what has fallen. It would be fatal to us if the ground were white, for the most careless sentry could not help seeing us upon it.”
They reached the road just as a peasant came along. He was an old man, and was dragging behind him a pile of faggots, which were placed upon two rough poles. He was walking between these, holding two ends in his hands, while the others trailed along on the ground behind.
“Bargain with him, Paolo.”
“That is a heavy load, father,” the latter said.
“Ay, it is heavy.”
“How much do you expect to get for your faggots in the town?”
“I shall get a crown,” the man said. “I would not take under, and they ought to be worth more than that now the snow has begun to fall.”
“We are going into the town,” Paolo said. “We are younger than you, and between us we could drag it along easily. I have got a crown in my pocket to buy some things with. I don't mind giving it to you for your load. If I can sell the faggots for a few soldi over that we shall be able to buy something for ourselves.”
“It is a bargain, lad,” the old man said. “I am getting old and the rheumatism is in my bones, and I shall be very glad to be spared the journey; so give me your money and take the poles. I hope you will be successful, and sell them a little higher. You had better ask a crown and a half. The women are sure to beat you down, but you will make ten or twelve soldi for yourselves.”
Paolo handed the crown to the old man.
“How had we better take this, Paolo?” Hector asked, as the old man, chuckling with satisfaction at having escaped a toilsome journey, turned to retrace his steps.
“There is room for us both between the shafts,” Paolo said, “one behind the other. It would be much easier to walk holding both poles than for us both to take one, as in that way the weight will be balanced on each side of us.”
There was indeed just room between the ends of the poles and the pile of brushwood for them to walk close behind each other, and as the greater portion of the weight rested on the other ends of the poles they did not find the burden a heavy one.
“How are we going to sell these, Paolo?”
“We shall have no difficulty in selling them, master. This frost will set every housewife on the lookout for wood, and you will find that we sha'n't have to go far before we are accosted.”
It was two miles from the spot where they had bought the faggots to the gates of Turin.
“I sha'n't be sorry to get rid of this load,” Hector said. “It is not the weight but the roughness of the poles. My hands are quite chafed by them.”
“Loose your hold for a bit, master. My hands have been accustomed to rough work, and many a load of faggots have I drawn in my time.”
“I will hold on, Paolo. It is not more than a quarter of a mile farther. My hands have done plenty of work, too, but it has been done with smooth handled weapons. It is well that they should become accustomed to harder work.”
They passed without a question through the gate, and following the example of other vendors of wood, of whom they saw several, Paolo began to shout, “Large faggots for sale!”
It was not long before a door opened and a woman beckoned him.
“How much do you want for the whole?”
“A crown and a half,” Paolo said.
“I have been offered as many for a crown,” the woman replied.
“Then, signora, you did wrong to refuse. It took two days' work to cut them, and we have dragged them here for miles. Two crowns would not pay for the labour. Not one scudo would I take under the price that I have named. Why, if the town is besieged these faggots would be worth twenty crowns before the winter is over.”
“Well, I will give you the money,” the woman said. “It is extortionate. Generally I can buy them at half that price.”
“I do not say no to that,” Paolo laughed, “but with two armies wanting firewood and cutting down the copses without even taking trouble to ask leave of their owners, I think that you will see firewood very scarce in the city before long.”
“Well, carry it in and pile it in the yard.”
This was soon done, the poles were thrown on to the top of the heap, and the boys went off along the street again.
“We have made half a crown for ourselves,” Paolo laughed; “now we must decide how we shall spend it.”
“It would be a good plan to spend some money anyhow,” Hector said. “What kind of things would you be likely to buy for your family in the country?”
“Well, I should say a cooking pan to begin with, and a few yards of warm stuff for making my mother a skirt.”
“Well, buy the cooking pan first and sling it across your shoulder, and then as we wander about we can look in the shops and it will seem as if we were on the search for articles that we had been told to purchase; it would be better than sauntering about without any apparent object. But first let us walk briskly towards the side of the town facing the citadel. The Strada Vecchia is the one that I want to examine first.”
The knowledge that he had gained from the plan of the city enabled Hector to find the street without their having to ask any questions.
“Now, buy your cooking pan at the next smith's shop you come to, and then we can go slowly along making our observations.”
They soon found that the street they had entered was, for the most part, deserted by its inhabitants. The shops were all closed, the road was strewn with fallen chimneys and balconies, and here and there were yawning holes showing how severely the street had suffered when the artillery duel was going on between the guns on the walls and those of the citadel. A short distance down the street a chain was stretched across it, and here a musketeer was pacing up and down on guard. Two others could be seen at the farther end of the street, where there was a gateway in the wall, now closed up with sandbags piled thickly against it.
“We will see if the other streets are similarly guarded.”
This was found to be so, sentries being placed in every street running down to the wall in this quarter.
“So far so good, Paolo. I do not think that matters could have been better for us. The next thing is to buy a tool with which we can wrench open a door or the shutter of a window; but a door will be best, because we could not work at a shutter without running the risk of being seen by a sentinel, while in a doorway we should be screened from observation. These houses in the Strada Vecchia are old, and the doors ought not to give us much trouble.”
“Some of these old locks are very strong, master. I should think that it would be easier to cut out one of the panels than to force the door open.”
“Possibly it would, but it is not an easy thing to get the saw to work. We should have to bore a hole large enough for the saw to go through before we could use it. However, we will buy both a saw and a crowbar; as they are both things that are useful to woodcutters, your buying them will not appear suspicious, nor will the purchase of an auger, but we had better get them at different shops.”
Leaving that part of the town they re-entered the streets where business was being carried on as usual.
“We won't buy the things until late in the afternoon, Paolo. There would be no advantage in dragging them about all day.”
They sauntered about the streets for some hours, then Paolo went into a small baker's and bought two loaves of coarse bread. At another shop he purchased some cheese, and with these they sat down on a stone bench in the principal square and leisurely ate their food and looked on at the crowd, which consisted principally of soldiers, Spanish veterans, stiff in carriage and haughty in manner, together with others, horse and foot, belonging to the contingent of the Duke of Milan, an ally of the Spanish. Among these were townspeople, the younger ones chatting with each other or with ladies of their acquaintance; the middle aged and older men talking gravely together as they walked up and down.
Among these there was an air of gloom and depression. The state of panic in which the troops of Prince Thomas, who had marched out confident that they were about to annihilate the French, had returned, and the knowledge that the Marquis of Leganez had also failed, had created a feeling of the deepest disquiet among that portion of the population who had taken a leading part in throwing off the authority of the duchess and in acknowledging that of Prince Thomas. They had regarded her cause as lost, but the vigorous steps that France was taking to assist her had caused uneasiness; and if, while as yet a comparatively small force had arrived, these had shown so bold a front, had captured Chieri in the face of a powerful army, had revictualled Casale, had defeated Prince Thomas and forced their way past the array of Leganez, it might well be that in the spring, when reinforcements reached them, they might even defeat the Spaniards and lay siege to Turin itself. The boys remained where they were until it began to grow dusk, when, after buying at three shops a saw, a crowbar, and an auger, they went and sat down on a doorway in a quiet street until eight o'clock. Then they took their way to the Strada Vecchia. It was entirely deserted. Lights showed in one or two of the windows, but, except that they could hear the tread of the nearest sentry, all was silent. Taking off their wooden shoes they moved cautiously along, keeping close to the houses. The fourth they came to had an unusually deep doorway, and they decided at once that this would suit their purpose. First they tried with the crowbar, but the lock held firmly.
“We will try another way, Paolo. If the door yields, it will go with a crash, and the sentry might come down to see what had caused the noise. We had better take out this lower panel; we shall want four holes bored touching each other to make one large enough for the saw to enter.”
The wood was of oak, and it took Paolo fully five minutes to make the holes.
“Now give me the auger,” Hector said when it was found that the hole was large enough for the saw to pass through.
“I will begin at the bottom of the panel while you saw away at the top.”
Paolo had done his share by the time the holes along the bottom were ready for the saw.
“Now you take the auger again,” Hector said. “We have not done half our work yet. The holes must be made on each side. There is no turning the saw.”
It took them an hour and a half of hard work before the last cut was completed and the panel fell forward.
“You go in first, Paolo. I will follow you, and will wedge the panel into its place again with some of the chips that the auger has cut out. No one has passed since we began, and if anyone did come along before morning he would not be likely to notice that the panel was gone. Still it is as well to avoid all risk.”
As soon as the panel was replaced they mounted the stairs. Before beginning they had seen that there were no lights in any of the windows, and feeling sure that the house was deserted they groped their way upstairs without hesitation until they reached the attics in the sloping roof. They entered one of these facing the street, opened the casement, in which oiled paper took the place of glass, and stepped down on to the parapet. Their course was now easy. The divisions between the houses were marked by walls some six feet high extending from the edge of the parapet over the roof. They were able to climb these, however, without having to use their cord, one helping the other up and then being assisted by him. They had left the cooking pan and their tools, with the exception of the crowbar, behind them, and had fastened their wooden shoes round their necks. The sun during the day had melted the snow that had fallen in the morning, but light flakes were again beginning to come down fast.
“I don't care how hard it snows as long as it keeps on,” Hector said in a low voice in answer to an exclamation from Paolo when the first flake fell upon his face. “The harder the better, for in that case no sentry could see us half a dozen paces away. There is another advantage. The wind is from the north, and we have only to keep the driving snow on our right cheeks to make our way straight to the fortress, whereas with an overcast sky on such a dark night as this we should very soon lose all idea of the direction that we were going in.”
Being obliged to use great caution to avoid noise while getting over the walls, it took them half an hour to reach the end of the street. They had, while waiting before commencing their operations, twisted one of their sashes, and then wound it round the hook so thickly that this would fall almost noiselessly upon the ground. The snow prevented them from seeing six feet below them, but they felt sure that there must be a narrow lane between the house and the wall. They had during the day bought a length, equal to that of their rope, of strong string.
“I have got it as you ordered it, master,” Paolo said as they came out of the shop, “but it would never bear our weight.”
“I think it might do in case of necessity,” Hector said. “In fact, I am sure it would. It does not require a great thickness of new cord to hold a man's weight; but I don't want it for that.”
Paolo walked silently along for some time, and then said: “If it is not wanted to carry our weight, master, I cannot think what it is wanted for.”
“It is wanted to get the hook down with. You see when we get down into the street there would be little chance of getting the hook off its hold. We shall most likely want it again, and certainly we shall want the rope. I have been puzzling over it, and I think I have found a way at last. My idea is to fasten this thin rope to the point of the hook, then, on pulling upon it the point will rise until it gets level with the top of the wall on which it is fixed, and we can then shake it down without difficulty. I don't know whether it will act, but I think that it ought to do so; an upward pull at the point must, I should think, lift it as far as the edge.”
“I should think that it must,” Paolo agreed. “I should never have thought of that.”
“We will try it on this last division wall. I have no doubt about it myself, because even if it did not pull it quite to the top the thing would be so canted over that I think it would fall from its own weight.”
They now attached the string to the point, fixed the hook to the top of the wall, and then pulled upon the string. The hook at once fell to their feet.
“That is capital,” Hector said. “Now we can go to work. We need carry this crowbar no farther. In the first place we will cross this roof and other roofs as far as we can go; the sentry at the corner is probably standing up for shelter in a doorway, and we may as well get as far as we can from him, and at the same time not go far enough to get near the one at the next corner.”
After one or two attempts the hook became fixed on the ridge of the roof, and they at once climbed up, unfastened the hook, and slid down on the now snow covered tiles. Two more roofs were crossed in the same way, and then they prepared to descend. They had, when they put on their disguises, tied knots in the rope at a distance of a foot apart. They now adjusted the hook on the parapet.
“Shall I go first, master, or will you?”
“I will go first, though in fact it matters little which of us does it; but first I must warm my fingers. I don't think that I could trust to them at present.”
He gathered a handful of snow, made it into a ball, and held it in his hands until the cold pained him, then he dropped the snow and thrust his hands up the sleeves of his doublet. Paolo looked on in astonishment, but having great faith in his master imitated his example.
“That is a curious way of warming the hands,” he said.
“I daresay you have made snowballs in your time, Paolo, and if you have you will remember that, although it made your hands bitterly cold at first, after you had done they soon became almost as hot as fire.”
“I do remember that, master, but I should never have thought of it as a way of warming our hands.”
For a minute or two there was a sharp pain as the blood began to rush into the fingers, and when this passed off their hands were in a glow. Hector took the rope, lowered himself over the parapet, and then began to descend. When halfway down the darkness became more intense than before, and he knew that he was now below the level of the outer wall. When he reached the ground he shook the rope as a signal, and then, stretching his arms before him, crossed the lane. It was but a step, for the house stood but five feet back from the wall. He waited until Paolo joined him, then he drew on the thin rope and, to his satisfaction, he felt it yield.
“Stand aside,” he said, “it is heavy enough to give one a nasty thump.”
Paolo withdrew a few paces, then Hector gave another pull. The rope gave way at once. He flattened himself against the house, and the hook fell with a dull thud a foot or two away.
“Coil up the rope, Paolo, and then feel along the wall to the right; don't go too far. I will go to the left, there may be some steps up to the rampart.”
This proved to be the case, and together they made their way up quietly, but even had they had their shoes on, the snow was already sufficiently deep to deaden their footsteps. On reaching the top they stood silent for a minute or two. Presently they heard the sound of heavy stamping of feet. They turned at once to descend, if necessary, the steps they had mounted, then Hector put his hand upon the other's shoulder and whispered, “It is the sentry trying to warm his feet; no doubt he is standing up somewhere to shelter himself from the snow; let us go on at once.”
They crossed the rampart, fastened the hook on the top of the wall, and descended, and were again successful in bringing the rope down after them.
“Go carefully, Paolo; no doubt there is a moat somewhere here.” There was, however, no necessity for caution, for the white surface of the snow was soon broken by a black line.
“It will be awfully cold,” Paolo said, with teeth that chattered at the prospect.
“Of course you can swim, Paolo?”
“Not very well, master.”
“Then I will go first. You fasten the rope under your arms, and I will haul you across. Be sure you do not make a noise in getting into the water. But first of all take off your doublet, I will carry it and mine across on my head. It cannot be many yards across. The wind will soon dry the rest of our things, and once our work is done we can warm ourselves by running. I would say strip altogether, but we may have to do another swim; for, as we agreed, there is no chance of our being able to return by the way we came.”
Fastening the two doublets on his head, Hector lowered himself into the water, which was three feet below the level on which they stood. He had fastened the rope across his shoulder. As he expected, he found the water out of his depth, and at once struck out to the opposite side. It was about forty feet across. He found, on reaching the other side, that the wall was there nearly five feet above the water. He undid the rope and threw up the hook. At the second attempt it caught, and he climbed the side, and then in a low voice told Paolo to start. Presently he heard a slight splash, followed by a gasp. He hauled away rapidly on the rope, and in a couple of minutes Paolo stood beside him, shivering and gasping.
“Put your doublet on. Now let us go forward as fast as we can.” They climbed the steep slope to the top of the glacis, and then ran down until they were brought to a standstill by another moat.
“This is the one marked in the plan as dividing the fortifications of the town from those of the citadel. Now we have another swim before us. It is wider than the last, but is really no distance. Give me your doublet again.”
“I don't mind this so much,” Paolo said. “I cannot be colder than I am.”
“Don't try to swim, Paolo; lie on your back, with your mouth just out of water. I will have you over in no time.”
It was fully fifty yards across; but, accustomed to bathe in almost icy cold water, the swim was nothing to Hector, who was soon across, and who then towed Paolo over as before. They mounted another glacis, and presently reached the edge of a third moat.
“We need go no farther. I know that this moat is but some fifteen yards from the foot of the fortifications. Now, get the arrows out. Cut off a foot or two of the thin cord, and unravel it. I must warm my fingers again first, I cannot use them at all.”
“Mine are pretty cold, too.” And both lads warmed them as before. Paolo then set to work to string the bow, which required all his strength to accomplish. While he was doing so, Hector drew from his pouch the six little pellets, and taking the arrows, straightened out each pellet, wrapped it round an arrow, and secured it firmly with a small strand from the string. When he had done this, he took the bow from Paolo, fitted an arrow to the string, drew it with his full strength, and then, pointing the arrow high, loosed it. The six arrows were sent off. Just as the last was discharged there was a shout of “Who is there? Speak, or I fire!” It was a sentry on the wall, who had caught the sound of the twang of the bow.
“I am a friend, a messenger from the French general,” Hector replied. “I have just shot six arrows into the fortress; a message is attached to each for the governor. Report to the officer, and have a search made for them in the morning.
“That is a piece of good luck,” he went on as they turned away. “I thought of shouting, but we might have got a shot in reply, and I made sure that one or other of the arrows would be picked up. Still, this makes certain of it.”
“I think I would rather stop out here until morning,” Paolo said, “then they will take me in. I am afraid I shall never get across the river.”
“Nonsense! The water is low, and we are not likely to have to swim farther than we did in crossing the last moat. Getting through the part of the town between us and the river is a more serious matter. However, it is not very far across, and they are not likely to be very vigilant.”
They turned to the right, and kept along at the edge of the moat, until Hector considered that they had made a fourth of the circuit of the walls, and were now facing the river. They had decided before that this would be the easiest side on which to leave the town. The sentinels would not expect that anyone attempting to enter or leave the citadel would try to do so here; as, in addition to passing the wall facing the fortress and that bordering the river, they would be obliged to swim the river itself. The snow was falling as quickly as ever, and the wind blowing fiercely.
“There is no fear of their seeing us, unless we happen to run into the very arms of the sentry,” Hector said encouragingly; “we shall only have the moat to swim; and as, according to the plan, it is nothing like so wide as that we passed before, we shall have no trouble with it.”
“Ah! here it is,” Paolo groaned.
“Nonsense!” Hector said. “One cold bath more or less makes no difference now. There, give me your coat again, and I will take it over.”
The moat was indeed but some twelve yards across, and in two or three minutes Paolo stood shivering on the other side.
“The edge is not far from the wall, not much more than the breadth of the moat. Give me the cord.”
A few steps and they reached the wall. After two attempts the hook caught, and Hector climbed up. He was looking back to watch Paolo when he was suddenly seized from behind, and a deep voice in Italian said, “If you move I will kill you. Who are you?”
With a sudden effort Hector twisted himself round and seized the disengaged wrist of his opponent, which he doubted not held a dagger. The man loosened his hold of his doublet and tried to grasp his neck, but Hector in a moment leapt forward and threw his arm round the man's waist. They wrestled backwards and forwards, but the soldier was a powerful man, and Hector found that he could not long retain a grasp of his wrist. Suddenly he felt his antagonist collapse; the dagger dropped from his hand, the other arm relaxed its hold, and he fell a lifeless mass.
“Thank you, Paolo. You were but just in time. The fellow was too strong for me. Now let us slip down the inside of the wall as quickly as possible.”
A minute later they both stood at the foot of the wall, the hook was shaken off, and they proceeded along the wall until they came to a street.
“It is not more than two or three hundred yards to the outer wall,” Hector whispered.
Whether there were sentinels or not in the street they knew not. If so, they had withdrawn themselves into deep doorways to avoid the blinding snow, and the wind drowned the slight sound made by their feet on the soft snow.
In a short time they reached the outer wall, crept along it until they found the steps leading up, crossed it in safety, fixed their hook, and rapidly descended. A run of fifty yards brought them to the edge of the river bank.
“We will try to find a boat,” Hector said. “There are sure to be some along here.”
They walked across the dry bed of the river till they reached the water's edge, and then followed this. In a few minutes, to their delight, they came upon a boat. The bow was hauled a few feet out of water, and a rope, doubtless attached to a heavy stone anchor, stretched from its bows. This they cut, put their shoulders to the gunwale, and soon had her afloat. Then they scrambled in, put the oars out cautiously, and began to row. Both had had some practice at the exercise, and it was not long before the boat grounded on the opposite shore.
“Pull it up a bit,” Hector said. “No doubt it belongs to some poor fisherman to whom its loss would be serious. Now we must keep along the bank for some distance, until quite sure that we are well beyond any patrols the enemy may have on the road. Let us get into a run, Paolo, and see if we can't get our blood in motion again, for I own that I feel half frozen.”
They set off at a brisk trot, which they kept up for half an hour, and then they struck off from the river and soon found the road. Following this, after an hour's walking they came upon a little shed by the roadside, and in one corner found a pile of old sacks.
“We are in luck again!” Hector exclaimed joyfully. “Tired as I am, I don't think that I could have slept in these wet clothes, if one can call them wet—at present they are frozen stiff. These sacks are the very thing. We can strip now and wring out our clothes thoroughly. There are enough sacks here to lay under us and cover us too. After wringing out the shirts we will put them in under the sacks next to us. The heat of our bodies will dry them to some extent, and they will be warm to put on in the morning. The other things we can pile over us. There is no chance of their getting dry; but I am so pleased with our success that I am not disposed to grumble at trifles.”

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