Not For Honour Alone, Part 11
The mist hung heavy in the air, tendrils snaking around the
trees and wrapping themselves around his gleaming black boots. Edrington
stood still, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. He felt a quiver
of anticipation, as if danger were approaching him. But it didn't quite
feel like danger.
A footstep behind him; the snap of a twig underfoot. He whirled around
and drew his sword from its scabbard.
A figure stood before him, tall and straight, cloaked in dark wool with
the hood pulled forward, shielding the face. It extended one hand and
beckoned him closer. Mystified, he took a step nearer, and the figure
turned and began to walk away.
He followed to a small clearing in the wood where the figure stopped in a
patch of moonlight. It stood with its back to him, not moving or
"I don't understand." he said. His voice sounded hollow in his ears.
"What is it you want of me?"
The figure turned abruptly and threw back the hood. Edrington's sword
fell from suddenly nerveless fingers.
She didn't speak, but took a step closer to him. He extended his arms
and rested his hands at her waist. At the solid feel of her form he felt
his control burst like a dam; he wrapped his arms around her, buried his
face in her hair and pressed her against him. His shoulders shook as he
When he was calm again he became away of other sensations. She was
stroking his hair gently, as one would soothe a child. Her body was warm
where it pressed against his, and he felt a familiar flush suffuse his
body. He pulled back to look at her face.
"If this is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up again."
She smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. They clung to each other for
a moment, then she broke the kiss and stepped away.
Edrington nearly cried out in protest, but he couldn't find his voice.
She turned slowly and began to walk away, her dark cloak blending with
the mist-filled night.
She continued to walk away, not even looking back.
The shout inside his head jerked Edrington awake. He lay in his tent,
the murky grey light of dawn visible just beyond the flaps. It was a
chilly morning, but his body was drenched in sweat; his heart pounding
and his blood racing.
God, he thought to himself, a rueful smile on his lips. I've been away
from home entirely too long.
Just then the drums began to sound to wake the men up, and Edrington
remembered that they were supposed to resume the march that day. He
quickly rose from the bed and rummaged through his baggage, searching for
a clean shirt.
"Damnit!" he exclaimed, slamming the lid of his trunk down. There was
very little chance of finding a clean shirt. Or of having his boots
polished, or of getting warm water to shave with. With Andrews in the
custody of the provosts he was on his own.
He left the tent to see about a shave and immediately bumped into Private
Treverton. The water the young man was carrying sloshed about in the
bowl and spilled onto his trousers. When he looked up and met
Edrington's eyes he looked on the verge of tears, and almost impossibly
"What are you doing with that, Treverton?" Edrington asked, taking care
to keep his voice quiet and level.
"I.. I.. its for you, m'lord." Treverton stammered. "To clean up and
Edrington smiled slightly. "Yes, Treverton, I can see that. But why are
you bringing it?"
"Sergeant Owen's orders, sir. He thought you might need someone to look
after you. What with Andrews..." Treverton's speech ground to a halt.
Edrington sighed. "Very well. I don't suppose you've ever be in this
sort of position before, have you?" he asked, looking speculatively at
the younger man. Treverton shook his head.
"No, I didn't think so." He reached out and took the bowl from
Treverton's perceptibly trembling hands. "I think I'll take care of
shaving myself, but if you could polish my boots and buff the buttons on
my coat that would be fine."
Treverton visibly brightened and without another word grabbed the boots
and coat and dashed from the tent, leaving the flap waving in the wind of
Two hours later they were on the road, marching hard. Rumours were
flying thick and fast amongst the men; many suspecting that the French
would swoop down on them at any moment, block their path into Portugal,
and cut the army to pieces. With there being very little information
filtering down from command, there was little that the battalion
commanders could do to counteract the spread of gossip.
Edrington was listening to the grumblings and mutterings of his men with
only one ear. The rest of his mind was preoccupied with the problem of
Andrews, and the only slightly less annoying problem of Captain Sharpe.
The air was heavy, with dark clouds gathering overhead; a perfect match
for his mood. He was half asleep, swaying in perfect rhythm with his
horse when his thoughts were rudely interrupted.
"You'll never get an answer just sitting and thinking." the soft Irish
Edrington nearly jumped out of his skin so surprising was this
interruption. He half expected to see Sharpe's constant companion
Sergeant Harper addressing him, but it was someone he had never seen
before. Some of his puzzlement must have showed on his face, because the
man was quick to introduce and explain himself.
"Sure and I'm sorry for giving you a start, Colonel Edrington, my lord,
sir. Michael Hogan is my name. Major Michael Hogan." And he leaned
from his saddle and shook hands with a bemused Edrington.
He knew the name, of course. Nearly everyone knew the name of
Wellington's favorite intelligencer, although few had the privilege of
ever meeting Hogan. He was a somewhat misty figure; here and then gone
again, off chasing after some new piece of information or plotting the
next course of attack. Edrington was rather amazed that Hogan should be
seeking him out, and he took no pains to hide it.
"What can I do for you, Major?" he asked.
"Actually, Colonel, its more along the lines of what I can do for you."
He moved his horse out of the line and reined to a stop. When Edrington
had joined him Hogan withdrew a musket from his saddle holster.
"I understand you were wanting this." he said. "Lets keep how you got it
a secret though, shall we?"
Edrington's eyes widened when he realized what Hogan was offering. It
was the musket that Andrews had been carrying the night of the accident.
The musket that he had been wracking his brain to figure out how he was
going to take possession of. Here it was, being handed to him on a
"How..." he spluttered. "How did you even know I wanted this?" he asked
when he regained control of his voice.
"I hear things." was Hogan's response. "Its my job, after all." And he
Edrington was shocked at the response. After all, only Captain Sharpe,
himself, and two soldiers of the 86th even knew that he wanted it. "But
how?" he persisted.
"There's very little that the general doesn't know about what goes on in
this army, Colonel. Remember that." And with a last grin and a wink,
Hogan kicked his horse and trotted off.
Edrington shook his head in bemusement, then a huge grin spread across
his face. He wanted to laugh out loud, but he contented himself with the
smile. Before another moment could pass he nudged his horse into motion
and sought out Owen. So single-minded was he that he missed the
speculative look of Major Harlan as he rode past, cradling the musket to
his chest as if it were a baby.
Harlan snorted in disgust. "So, our illustrious commander has taken to
carrying a long arm. What will he do next?"
Captain Langdon smiled briefly before retreating into his own thoughts.
As little use as he had for Edrington, he had even less for Harlan. He
was the only senior officer of the 86th who was actually Cornish, and the
attitudes of some of his colleagues grated on him. They were, by and
large, a self-absorbed bunch who didn't care one whit for the uniqueness
of the men they commanded, and Major Harlan was without doubt the worst
of the bunch.
Langdon could not resist taking a shot at the heartily disliked major.
"Do you think that musket is somehow connected to what happened with
Private Andrews?" he asked, and was satisfied to see Harlan's hands
tighten on the reins, his knuckles turning white.
"If that's your opinion, Captain" Harlan said, lowering his voice to a
harsh whisper, "I would suggest that you save your breath to cool your
porridge. You wouldn't want to get yourself caught up in Colonel
Edrington's folly, now would you? After all, it wouldn't do for such a
fine officer as yourself to get dragged down with him." And with that
implied threat Harlan spurred off.
Langdon watched the major disappear in a cloud of dust before turning his
head to look speculatively in the direction his commanding officer had
ridden just moments before.
Edrington finally tracked down Sergeant Owen, pulled him out of the file
handed him the musket. He reached into his sabertache for paper and
pencil and hastily scribbled a pass. He handed the slip of paper to
"Here" he said. "You're excused from your regular duties for the rest of
the day. I don't care what else you do, but find Captain Sharpe and give
him this musket."
Owen nodded and moved to leave. Edrington caught him by the shoulder and
held him a moment.
"This is important, Owen." he said, leaning down from his saddle to look
the younger man in the eye. "It could mean the difference between life
and death for Andrews. Am I clear?"
Owen's eyes widened, and he glanced once at the musket in his hands
before nodding soberly.
"Yes my lord." he said. "Perfectly clear."
"Good." Edrington said and released his hold. "Now go."
The sun was sinking low in the western sky before a halt was called. The
men, exhausted, sank gratefully to the ground, most of them too tired to
even care about a tent or a meal.
Edrington slid slowly out of the saddle, suppressing a groan as he did.
That day was the most hours he had spent on horseback since he had been
injured, and his legs were all but screaming in protest. Treverton came
dashing up, as full of energy as only the young can be, took the reins,
and with a nod and a grin for his commander he led the horse away.
To be that young again, Edrington said to himself, grinning and shaking
his head in resignation. He could scarcely remember himself at age 18,
but he was willing to bet he had been just as energetic and exuberant as
Treverton. If only I could have one tenth of that energy now, he
thought. I feel every one of my forty years tonight.
"They told me that you had been injured and were sick for a time, but I
didn't think it would be this bad. You look like hell."
Edrington froze at the sound of the familiar voice. Still remembering
his dream of Sarah the night before he half believed he was imagining it.
He turned slowly, afraid to spoil the moment if it was all is his mind.
The setting sun back-lit the speaker, but the solid form was familiar, as
was the halo of his golden hair.
The visitor took a step closer and laughed; the familiar light-hearted
laugh that always heralded Kennedy's good humour.
"Who were you expecting? Nelson risen from the dead?" he asked, raising
"I wasn't expecting anything, or anybody." He rested a hand on his
friend's shoulder before embracing him. "But I am certainly glad you're