Markham's prediction turned out correct. A fresh wind was blowing by the morning, and two days later the lugger was running along, close under the coast, fifteen miles south of the mouth of the Loire, having kept that course in order to avoid any British cruisers that might be off the mouth of the river. Before morning they had passed St. Nazaire, and were running up the Loire.
"Well, Downes," Colonel Chambers said, "it seems to me that these two brothers are born to get into adventures and to get well out of them. However, Frank, although you have acted very creditably, and must certainly be a wonderful shot with a pistol, don't do this sort of thing too often."
There was a general laugh in the court, which was instantly repressed. Mr. Faulkner's eyes ran furiously over the crowded benches.
"You think it very unlikely, Captain Downes, that Mr. Wyatt would deliberately have walked into the fire, and I quite share your opinion; but it has not yet been proved that he was deliberately going towards the fire at all. You say he lifted Mr. Faulkner in his arms. Now it seems to me that, having done so, he would not be able to see at all which way he was going, as Mr. Wyatt's eyes would both be on a level with Mr. Faulkner's chest; moreover, it must be evident that, judging from his present appearance, he could scarcely have seen anything at all, after receiving such a blow. Does it not strike you as being still more likely that, partially blinded as he was, and being unwilling to strike the magistrate in return, however much the latter had forfeited all claim to respect, he closed with him, and in the heat of passion lifted him up and carried him along at random?"
"Do you think, Colonel Chambers, that they will be able to keep Julian away for a long time?"
"I sincerely hope not," Colonel Chambers said; "but I own that I can see no other way for accounting for his absence. Well, if you will call the clerk in, he will take down your statement at once. What do you think, Harrington? It seems to me that when we have got the four statements we shall be fully justified in withdrawing the warrant against young Wyatt."
He should have gone anyhow, and no doubt he would be able to get some opportunity of writing to Frank and setting his mind at rest as to his safety, and telling him something about what had happened, and that he had been kidnapped and carried over to France. He had acted like a fool, no doubt, but Frank would understand why he had followed his first impulse and gone alone after the man who committed the murder, instead of going to the constables and telling them that some unknown man had killed the magistrate. One thing seemed certain, he should never be able to go back to Weymouth again unless the affair was cleared up, and he did not see how that ever could be.
"It hasn't been very pleasant, Aunt," he replied cheerfully, "but it is all right now, and certainly I ought not to grumble. I have had better luck than I deserved. I was a fool to go there, but I did not think that there was any real chance of the revenue people coming down upon us. It was thought they had been thrown off the scent altogether."
Julian had watched the speakers anxiously during this conversation. He was wholly ignorant of French, but from the tone and manner of the speakers, he gathered that the poacher was speaking in his favour. He had expected no mercy; his life was nothing to these French smugglers; and he was surprised to find the man, whose life he thought he held in his hand if released, apparently pleading his cause.