“The sentence of the court has been read to you, and there is no hope of remission. You will die at sunrise to-morrow morning, and have but a few hours to live. This you might have ascertained from the sergeant of the guard without sending for me,” said Arthur, turning to leave the tent.
“Stay!” resumed the prisoner, observing Carlton’s intention, “I have that to say which nearly concerns yourself and companions. I have learned that it is the intention of your commander to carry the Fort of Laurieghur by assault; this cannot be done without great loss of life among you, for the place is much stronger and better provisioned and garrisoned than he has any idea of. Listen to my story, you will then see that I have it in my power to render your General a very great service if permitted to do so.”
“Speak on,” responded Arthur, getting somewhat interested, and seating himself on a bag of tent pegs, the the only apology for a seat the tent afforded.
The youth then proceeded with his story, from which it appeared that, about five weeks previous, a party of cavalry Sowas, regular and irregular, who had deserted their regiments, had arrived at the village in which the speaker and his father, who was a mounted police patell, resided. While there, the emissaries of the Begum of Runjetpoora, who had established herself at Laurieghur, and was organizing a force and getting together supplies of ammunition, provisions, etc., with the intention of making a raid on Runjetpoora and looting it, had made overtures to this party, and promised them high pay and a share of the plunder if they would join her. This they had accepted, and some of the men of the village, the father and son included, had cast in their lots with the mutineers and entered the fort; but, dissatisfied with being so long cooped up within its walk, and seeing no prospect of immediate plunder, had attempted to leave the place, but were prevented from so doing by the Begum’s order. In sullen silence they received this injunction, but determined to escape when opportunity offered. That one day while he, (the prisoner) was passing through the ruins of a deserted palace, he had discovered the entrance to a subterraneous passage, leading under the walls and coming out about a quarter of a mile from the fort. This he had communicated to his comrades, and the following morning ere it was light, the party, led by himself, made good their retreat, and keeping within the jungle for some miles, came upon the high road, and chanced to meet the Collector’s party; that he had taken no part in the slaughter of the children, and had intended leaving the band as soon as they came in sight of his own village, and in conclusion said, “If you will swear to obtain my pardon, and liberty to go where I please, I will lead you and any number of your men through this same passage, and in less than two hours from leaving this place, you shall be in possession of the fort and all it contains.” This offer our hero did not consider himself at liberty to refuse or accept, but promised at once to bring the matter to the notice of the officer commanding the force, and let him (the prisoner) know the result as speedily as might be, and immediately left the guard room for that purpose.