Not For Honour Alone, part 10
Edrington began shouting for Owen as soon as he reached the outskirts of
the 86th's camp. Heads popped out of tents all along his path, but
nobody was willing to confront their colonel in his present mood.
"OWEN!" he shouted one last time before ducking to enter his tent.
Owen was sitting inside, on a camp stool, quietly cleaning
Edrington jumped when he saw the sergeant, and pressed a hand to his
"Christ!" he breathed. "Don't do that!"
Owen calmly finished his task; carefully re-seating the flint
and tightening the doghead screw. Only when he was finished did he
acknowledge his commander.
"You wanted me for something, sir?" he asked.
"So help me Owen, one of these days...." Edrington
left the threat
"Yes sir. I'm sure you would like to." was Owen's response.
"I suppose I'll have to forego the pleasure for now, because
I need you
to do something for me." He paused to unbuckle his sword belt. "I want
you to gather together every man that was a part of the patrol with
Andrews. Keep it quiet. Take them someplace away from the main camp.
And alert Captain Sharpe."
"Captain Sharpe, sir?"
"Indeed, Sergeant. Captain Sharpe. If I'm going to question
he deserves to be there, don't you think?"
Owen nodded, saluted, and made to leave.
"Owen?" Edrington's voice called him back.
"I trust I don't need to tell you that Major Harlan is
to know nothing
about this?" he said. "I mean NOTHING."
Owen grinned wolfishly. "No sir." was all he said before departing.
Edrington watched the sergeant leave with a satisfied smile
on his face.
"That's got you, Harlan." he said quietly. "I'll beat you in this, so
Captain Sharpe trudged through the camp, reluctant to answer Edrington's
summons a moment sooner than required. He was out of temper, disgusted,
and ever so slightly intrigued. The sergeant who had delivered the
message had been remarkably discreet; checking the vicinity to make sure
no one else was about before discharging his errand. Whatever the 86th's
colonel was up to this time he was keeping it close to his chest.
But what could it be except something connected to the situation
The setting sun dazzled his eyes and made it difficult to think.
tried to focus his mind on the matter at hand, but the heat and the
uproars of the day had sapped his strength. He paused for a moment,
closed his eyes and tilted his head to the sky. He thought of Teresa,
wondering if she had returned home to the hills of Casatajeda, taking
their daughter with her. She did not belong on the flat plains, but was
a mountain hunter. He wished he were with her, wherever that might be.
He came upon the small knot of eight men much sooner than he
expected. All had the distinctive blue facings of the 86th, and one bore
a sergeant's stripes on his sleeves. He was curious as to what had
prompted this gathering, especially when he had expected to be dealing
with Edrington alone.
The sergeant stepped forward. "Captain Sharpe" he
said quietly. "I'm
glad you took my message seriously. I was worried that you wouldn't
believe me, or consider it not worth your time."
Almost against his will Sharpe lowered his voice so as not
overheard by the others. "Where's your colonel, and just what the devil
is going on here?" he asked, still incredulous. "If this is some sort of
"The colonel will be along soon." Owen said. He
gestured at the small
group of men. "These men were a part of the patrol when your man, Dobbs,
was injured. Colonel Edrington thought you would be interested in what
they have to say about that night."
Sharpe was silent for a moment, sizing up the men as well as
possibility that they would know anything.
"Well, are you?" a voice said behind him.
Even without turning around Sharpe could identify the owner
voice. Those rich, round and plummy tones could belong to no one else.
"Am I what?" he asked without turning around. "Interested?"
with a glance over his shoulder.
Edrington smiled enigmatically and nodded to Owen. "Are
these the men?"
he asked, sizing the small group up with a quick glance.
Edrington turned to Sharpe. "I asked Sergeant Owen to
bring you here,
Captain, because despite appearances otherwise, I do believe you have as
much right as I do to know what happened that night. And I believe that
what we learn here may be the first step." He gestured to the group of
men. "They were all present that night. I find it strange that they
were never asked to give evidence, don't you?"
"Not really." was Sharpe's response. When Edrington
looked surprised he
continued. "May I speak plainly, sir?"
"Of course. When has lack of permission ever stopped you before?"
Sharpe gave a tight smile. "With all due respect, sir,
no one would ask
these men for their testimony because words from the scum of the earth'
are meaningless. Never mind that each of them was present when the
explosion occurred, its much better to take the word of a bunch of
preening, overstuffed officers." He glanced at Edrington. "Present
company excepted, sir."
"Which part? The preening, or the overstuffed?"
Sharpe looked startled
and Edrington laughed. "Never mind, I see your point." He turned to his
soldiers, raising his voice just enough to be heard by everybody.
"You all know why I wanted to speak to you. I want to
know the truth of
what happened the night that Private Andrews was assigned to a patrol
with you, and I want to hear it from the men who know." The men looked
at each other, and two of them nervously shuffled their feet, but no one
An uncomfortable minute passed, and then another. The men
each other, and some looked at Sergeant Owen, but not one was willing to
meet the eyes of the officers. Finally one of the men, a grizzled
veteran of nearly 30 years in His Majesty's service stepped forward.
"Beggin' your pardon, sirs" he said with a nod to
Edrington and then
Sharpe. "But we don't know nothin'. We were on a patrol, the musket
went off, and the rest we don't know about."
"What's your name, soldier?" Sharpe asked, his voice hard.
"Well, Gaynor, I would suggest that if that's all you
have to contribute
we'd probably be better off without you here."
There was a stunned silence and all eyes turned to the rifleman.
"Sharpe..." Edrington began.
Sharpe took a step closer to the hapless Gaynor. "Did
I not make myself
clear, Private? Its time for you to leave." He took one more step and
clenched one fist at his side. Gaynor tuned and fled as fast as he
Edrington was dumbfounded and on the verge of chastising Sharpe
actions when he noticed how the other men relaxed as soon as Gaynor left.
It was as sudden as a cloudburst; without warning they started talking
amongst themselves. Their voices were pitched too low for either officer
to hear, so Edrington turned to Sharpe.
"How...?" he began.
Sharpe grinned. "I was one of them once, remember? I
noticed that they
all kept glancing at Gaynor, and guessed that no one would speak as long
as he was here. Simple, really."
"Simple." Edrington echoed. His voice sounded hollow.
"Very." Sharpe replied. Then he turned his back
to the men and lowered
his voice. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to step on your toes. But there
was no way you were going to get information out of them with that one
hanging about. I took the necessary steps to handle the situation,
because you were right in what you said before. I am interested in what
they have to say."
Edrington simply shook his head in bemusement. He recognized
that a part
of himself had believed he would be able to command any situation with
Sharpe, but he was finding that it was rather like holding a tiger by the
tail. Sharpe was rude, arrogant, frequently insolent and in general a
pain in the ass. But he was also perceptive, quick-witted and willing to
do what was necessary. In short, he was a valuable ally.
Edrington's attention was yanked back to the situation at hand.
Treverton stood before him; his face flushed and his eyes on the ground.
"What is it, Treverton?" he asked.
Treverton glanced up at each of them; a quick flash of his
eyes and then
he resumed studying his feet. When he had mustered his nerve he raised
his head and met his commander's eyes squarely.
"We don't know much, sir. But Major Harlan specifically
to be a part of that patrol."
Sharpe and Edrington turned to each other, understanding dawning
"Did he now?" Edrington asked.
"Yes sir." Treverton replied. "And there was something else strange..."
"The major made sure Andrews was carrying a certain musket."
the men chimed in. "Put it into his hands himself."
The blood drained from Edrington's face, then poured back in
a flush of
pure rage. He understood now. But how could he ever prove it? In a
flash of inspiration he turned to Sharpe. Despite his anger his voice
was calm as he spoke.
"Captain, if I get you that musket would you be able to
determine if it
had been tampered with in any way?"
Sharpe had not quite reached the same conclusion, but he caught
soon as Edrington used the word "tampered". He felt a rush of anger to
match the colonel's, but like the other man his voice was tightly
"Yes sir, I certainly could."
Edrington nodded decisively and turned to his men.
"Thank you all. It means a great deal to me that you
are willing to
help. And I'll make sure your words don't go to waste." He caught the
eye of each in turn. "You're dismissed."
The men moved away, Treverton casting one last glance over
Edrington gave him an encouraging smile, and he ran off happily.
"You're thinking that Harlan arranged this whole scene, aren't you?"
For once the intrusion of Sharpe's voice in his thoughts did
him. He felt a curious sense of well being suffuse him, not unmixed with
triumph at knowing that he could best Major Harlan, after all.
"It's all well and good that you think that," Sharpe
said. "Because its
probably true. But how the devil are you going to prove it?"
"With your help, Captain." Edrington replied. "I'll
get you that musket,
you see what you can find, and then I'll take it from there."
"No offense, sir, but you're off your chump if you think
this'll be easy.
From what I've heard that Major Harlan is a nasty piece of work. It
won't be so neat and quick to catch him out. Not almost a week after the
fact." Despite his interest in the matter, Sharpe did not sound hopeful.
"I don't expect it to be simple." Edrington said,
his brown eyes intent
on Sharpe's blue ones. "But I won't let him get away with this."
"Because you've staked your honour on proving him guilty?"
"No. Because Andrews deserves better than this."