“Nothing more easy than to supply their place, by promoting some of our oldest sergeants,” observed Ensign Delme, who, as well as the ill-fated Murphy, had risen from the ranks. “If they behave themselves well, the King will confirm their appointments.”
“But my poor brother, what of him, Lawson? what have you learnt connected with his disappearance?” asked Charles de Haldimar with deep emotion.
“Nothing satisfactory, I am sorry to say,” returned the adjutant; “in fact, the whole affair is a mystery which no one can unravel; even at this moment the sentinel, Frank Halloway, who is strongly suspected of being privy to his disappearance, is undergoing a private examination by your father the governor.”
“Frank Halloway!” repeated the youth with a start of astonishment; “surely Halloway could never prove a traitor,—and especially to my brother, whose life he once saved at the peril of his own.”
The officers had now gained the parade, when the “Fall in, gentlemen, fall in,” quickly pronounced by Major Blackwater, prevented all further questioning on the part of the younger De Haldimar.
The scene, though circumscribed in limit, was picturesque in effect, and might have been happily illustrated by the pencil of the painter. The immediate area of the parade was filled with armed men, distributed into three divisions, and forming, with their respective ranks facing outwards, as many sides of a hollow square, the mode of defence invariably adopted by the Governor in all cases of sudden alarm. The vacant space, which communicated with the powder magazine, was left open to the movements of three three-pounders, which were to support each face in the event of its being broken by numbers. Close to these, and within the square, stood the number of gunners necessary to the duty of the field-pieces, each of which was commanded by a bombardier. At the foot of the ramparts, outside the square, and immediately opposite to their several embrasures, were stationed the gunners required for the batteries, under a non-commissioned officer also, and the whole under the direction of a superior officer of that arm, who now walked to and fro, conversing in a low voice with Major Blackwater. One gunner at each of these divisions of the artillery held in his hand a blazing torch, reflecting with picturesque yet gloomy effect the bright bayonets and equipment of the soldiers, and the anxious countenances of the women and invalids, who, bending eagerly through the windows of the surrounding barracks, appeared to await the issue of these preparations with an anxiety increased by the very consciousness of having no other parts than those of spectators to play in the scene that was momentarily expected.