“I suppose I must finish Lawson’s work, although I am but a poor hand at this sort of thing,” resumed Captain Erskine, taking up the prayer book the adjutant had, in hastening on the first alarm to get the men under arms, carelessly thrown on the grave of the now unconscious Murphy.
He then commenced the service at the point where Mr. Lawson had so abruptly broken off, and went through the remainder of the prayers. A very few minutes sufficed for the performance of this solemn duty, which was effected by the faint dim light of the at length dawning day, and the men in attendance proceeded to fill up the grave of their officer.
Gradually the mists, that had fallen during the latter hours of the night, began to ascend from the common, and disperse themselves in air, conveying the appearance of a rolling sheet of vapour retiring Back upon itself, and disclosing objects in succession, until the eye could embrace all that came within its extent of vision. As the officers yet lingered near the rude grave of their companion, watching with abstracted air the languid and almost mechanical action of their jaded men, as they emptied shovel after shovel of the damp earth over the body of its new tenant, they were suddenly startled by an expression of exultation from Sir Everard Valletort.
“By Jupiter, I have pinked him,” he exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew my rifle could not err; and as for my sight, I have carried away too many prizes in target-shooting to have been deceived in that. How delighted the old governor will be, Charles, to hear this. No more lecturing, I am sure, for the next six months at least;” and the young officer rubbed his hands together, at the success of his shot, with as much satisfaction and unconcern for the future, as if he had been in his own native England; in the midst of a prize-ring.
Roused by the observation of his friend, De Haldimar quitted his position near the sentry box, and advanced to the outer edge of the rampart. To him, as to his companions, the outline of the old bomb proof was now distinctly visible, but it was sometime before they could discover, in the direction in which Valletort pointed, a dark speck upon the common; and this so indistinctly, they could scarcely distinguish it with the naked eye.
“Your sight is quite equal to your aim, Sir Everard,” remarked Lieutenant Johnstone, one of Erskine’s subalterns, “and both are decidedly superior to mine; yet I used to be thought a good rifleman too, and have credit for an eye no less keen than that of an Indian. You have the advantage of me, however; for I honestly admit I never could have picked off yon fellow in the dark as you have done.”
As the dawn increased, the dark shadow of a human form, stretched at its length upon the ground, became perceptible; and the officers, with one unanimous voice, bore loud testimony to the skill and dexterity of him who had, under such extreme disadvantages, accomplished the death of their skulking enemy.