“Quick, quick, massa,—him quite up,” again whispered the boy.
The words had scarcely passed his lips, when the crack of the rifle, followed by a bright blaze of light, sounded throughout the stillness of the night with exciting sharpness. For an instant all was hushed; but scarcely had the distant woods ceased to reverberate the spirit-stirring echoes, when the anxious group of officers were surprised and startled by a sudden flash, the report of a second rifle from the common, and the whizzing of a bullet past their ears. This was instantly succeeded by a fierce, wild, and prolonged cry, expressive at once of triumph and revenge. It was that peculiar cry which an Indian utters when the reeking scalp has been wrested from his murdered victim.
“Missed him, as I am a sinner,” exclaimed Sir Everard, springing to his feet, and knocking the butt of his rifle on the ground with a movement of impatience. “Sambo, you young scoundrel, it was all your fault,—you moved your shoulder as I pulled the trigger. Thank Heaven, however, the aim of the Indian appears to have been no better, although the sharp whistling of his ball proves his piece to have been well levelled for a random shot.”
“His aim has been too true,” faintly pronounced the voice of one somewhat in the rear of his companions. “The ball of the villain has found a lodgment in my breast. God bless ye all, my boys; may your fates be more lucky than mine!” While he yet spoke, Lieutenant Murphy sank into the arms of Blessington and De Haldimar, who had flown to him at the first intimation of his wound, and was in the next instant a corpse.
“To your companies, gentlemen, to your companies on the instant. There is treason in the fort, and we had need of all our diligence and caution. Captain de Haldimar is missing, and the gate has been found unlocked. Quick, gentlemen, quick; even now the savages may be around us, though unseen.”
“Captain de Haldimar missing!—the gate unlocked!” exclaimed a number of voices. “Impossible!—surely we are not betrayed by our own men.”
“The sentinel has been relieved, and is now in irons,” resumed the communicator of this startling piece of intelligence. It was the adjutant of the regiment.
“Away, gentlemen, to your posts immediately,” said Captain Blessington, who, aided by De Haldimar, hastened to deposit the stiffening body of the unfortunate Murphy, which they still supported, upon the rampart. Then addressing the adjutant, “Mr. Lawson, let a couple of files be sent immediately to remove the body of their officer.”
“That shot which I heard from the common, as I approached, was not fired at random, then, I find,” observed the adjutant, as they all now hastily descended to join their men.—“Who has fallen?”
“Murphy, of the grenadiers,” was the reply of one near him.
“Poor fellow! our work commences badly,” resumed Mr. Lawson: “Murphy killed, and Captain de Haldimar missing. We had few officers enough to spare before, and their loss will be severely felt; I greatly fear, too, these casualties may have a tendency to discourage the men.”