Not For Honour Alone, part 12
"So, they actually elected you to Parliament? How the
devil did you
manage to fool all the 'good men and true' of the district?"
"Very funny." Kennedy said, slouching low in his
chair and extending his
feet towards the fire. He was balancing a glass of wine on his stomach,
his fingers lightly grasping the stem. "Actually, I just told everyone
that I had your support. Surprising how many votes rolled in after
Edrington laughed out loud, and it occurred to him that he
slightly drunk. Dinner had been a hastily thrown together affair,
consisting mainly of hard beef and bread, washed down with an excessive
amount of wine. The heat from the fire and the warmth of the wine
combined to make him sleepy, and his eyelids were drifting closed when he
recalled a question he wanted to ask his friend.
"Archie, just what the devil are you doing here?"
"Observing. Those self-important, puffed up imbeciles
that work for the
Duke of York wanted to send a contingent out to take a look at the state
of the army. They said I was an ideal member of the team." he concluded,
a sly grin creasing his face.
"Archie, you were a naval officer."
"I know that, and you know that, but those cretins don't
have a clue.
Besides, I couldn't tell them the real reason why I wanted to come to
"Which is...?" Edrington prompted.
"To see you, and to check up on William." He pulled
his pocket watch out
and flipped it open. "Where is he, anyway? If he got your message he
should have been here by now."
Edrington sighed and leaned back in his chair. "He'll
be along. You
Kennedy grunted in response and looked at his watch again.
Edrington watched his friend out of the corner of his eye,
puzzled by the concern that creased Kennedy's face. The light from the
fire cast a bronze glow across his features, highlighting the star-shaped
scar on his right temple, a legacy from a piece of shrapnel at Trafalgar.
The night breeze blew gently, ruffling his hair.
Finally he couldn't stand it. "Why are you so worried
about William? I
mean, you know that he never answers letters, and rarely writes his own,
so what in particular has you upset?"
Kennedy shrugged. "I don't know; just a feeling, I guess.
more Emma's feeling than mine. In fact..." He broke off at the sound of
footsteps coming near. He turned in that direction and saw his
brother-in-law. He stood and approached William. "Its about time!" was
all he said.
William laughed and shook his head. Instead of shaking Kennedy's
grabbed hold of him in a bearhug and lifted the shorter man clear off the
ground. When he set him back down he clapped him on the shoulder and
turned to the fire, where Edrington stood, a wide grin on his face at
seeing the pair of them so happy.
"Good Lord, Archie! When I read Hal's note I could scarcely
What brings you out like this?" He sat on the stool that his brother
pulled up for him and took the proffered glass of wine.
Edrington and Kennedy looked at each other and burst out laughing.
right, Edrington said to himself as he clasped his aching side. More
than slightly drunk. He felt somewhat dizzy. Revise that, he thought.
A lot more than slightly drunk.
William sat and stared at the pair of them, a dumbfounded expression
his face. He had never seen either of them like this, Hal especially.
But he had to smile at the site of his brother so uninhibited. It was
also a relief to know that he was feeling so well. They didn't speak of
it, but William had been terrified while Edrington was ill. And whatever
he had said it was obvious he wasn't going to get a straight answer from
either of them. Instead he asked another question that was preying on
"What's going on with Andrews, Hal? Have you discovered
will help his case?"
Edrington stopped laughing and shot his brother a warning glance,
was too late. Kennedy had caught the tone of William's question, and he
curiously looked from one to the other.
"What was that, William? What case?" He looked
at Edrington. "What's
he talking about?"
"Nothing." Edrington said, his voice flat. "Its
nothing that you need to
concern yourself about."
Kennedy looked at William and that back at his friend. Neither
meet his eyes, so he knew that something was up.
"Right." he said. "And I'm actually supposed
to believe that? I know
both of you too well to fall for your protestations of innocence. So
just answer the question, than we can all retire for the night."
William shrugged once, then waved at his brother. "Its
your folly Hal,
so I'll let you tell him."
Edrington glared at William before turning his attention to
"Really, its nothing." he said. "One of my men got himself in a bit of
trouble with the provosts, and I'm simply doing what I can to get him out
"That's wonderful!" William exclaimed, his voice
ripe with sarcasm.
"Now, how about telling him the whole thing?"
Kennedy felt a small shiver of dread. "What else could
there be? he
Edrington rolled his eyes. "Fine!" he shouted.
"You wanted to hear it
all, so here it is. Andrews is charged with manslaughter; if he's found
guilty he'll be hung. Not to mention that because I've laid myself on
the line for this, if he's found guilty I'll be shamed right out of the
army. Nothing much after all, wouldn't you say Archie?"
Kennedy sat down on his stool with a thump. "Manslaughter?"
his voice hollow. "And you've staked your own honour on his being
innocent? In God's name Hal! Why?"
"Because I owe him. I owe him for a great many things,
but mainly for
the simple fact that he's put up with me for so long." Edrington sat
down and rested his head in his hands. His voice sounded muffled as he
continued. "Andrews doesn't deserve to be sacrificed on the altar of
Major Harlan's ambition." He raised his head and met Kennedy's eyes. "I
wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
Kennedy nodded in understanding. Every word had the ring of
he had known Edrington too long, and too well, to doubt the depth of his
commitment. He would see to it that justice was done, no matter what the
cost. Honour be damned.
"Who is this Major Harlan?" Kennedy asked.
"You don't actually think Harlan's involved, do you?"
William asked at
the same time.
"Major Harlan is my second-in-command, and yes, I do think
in all this." He told Kennedy the entire story, including a summary of
what he and Sharpe had learned the day before, concluding with "Captain
Sharpe has the musket right now. I only hope he can find some evidence
of its having been tampered with. Otherwise this fight is over, and I
may as well head home right now."
William sat and stared at his brother, dumbfounded. "Christ
breathed. "You're serious! What could Harlan possibly hope to gain from
all of this? What's one more common soldier to him, more or less?"
"A common soldier is nothing to him." a new voice
after bigger game than that." And Captain Sharpe stepped into the circle
of firelight. "My lord." he acknowledged Edrington. "Captain." he said
with a nod for William.
Edrington quickly got to his feet. "Mister Sharpe, allow
me to present
my good friend, Mister Archie Kennedy. Archie, this is Captain Richard
Kennedy stood and extended a hand. "A pleasure, Captain."
he said when
Sharpe took it.
"Don't be so hasty, Archie. Judging by the look on Mr.
Sharpe's face it
won't be very pleasant." He noticed the musket that Sharpe held and
looked up at his face. "Have you found something?" he asked, unable to
keep the note of hope out of his voice.
"I have." Sharpe's voice was grim. He hefted the
musket into his hand
and eased the flint back. "Don't worry, sir." he said with a slight
grin. "Its unloaded." He pointed the barrel to the sky, held the musket
so that Edrington could see his finger on the trigger, and then pulled
The flint snapped forward, and the spark flared briefly. But
not what held Edrington's attention. Although he had never fired one
himself, he had seen enough men fire a musket to know that Sharpe had
scarcely exerted enough pressure on it, yet the flint had sprung forward
with no hesitation.
"Why?" he sputtered. "Or, better yet, how?"
"Filed down." Sharpe answered, cocking the musket
again and holding it so
Edrington had a clear view of the file marks on the flint. Edrington
reached out and took the gun from him and held it closer to the fire,
studying it while Sharpe continued. "I've seen it before; men will file
the flint down so they can speed up their firing time. Less pressure on
the trigger means it fires faster. And if you can get four rounds a
minute fired..." He left the sentence unfinished.
"Does it effect the force of the ball?" Kennedy asked, fascinated.
"Not at all." Sharpe replied. "As long as all
the powder is in and the
ball is seated tight against the wad it will fire with the same force.
It just takes less force to make it fire." he said, smiling slightly at
"Who could have done this?" Edrington asked, getting
to the heart of the
matter. "Not Major Harlan himself; I doubt he knows the butt of a musket
from the business end. And even if he did, would he know what to do with
Sharpe snorted. "Not bloody likely." he said under his breath.
Kennedy took the musket and examined it himself. Sharpe looked
Edrington, his question unspoken.
"Mr. Kennedy is a former naval officer, Sharpe, so he
has some knowledge
of weaponry. And I trust him with my life." Edrington said.
Kennedy smiled slightly before continuing his examination.
He ran his
thumb along the smoothed edge. "An armourer, perhaps?" he asked. "Or one
of the cavalry blacksmiths? That would seem the most likely."
"No." William said, his tone definite. "No
cavalry blacksmith or
armourer would do anything like this. Besides, they have more than
enough to do without handling special requests from infantry majors."
"I took the liberty of asking around a bit." Sharpe
said. "No one on the
quartermaster general's staff issued new muskets to your battalion, and
nobody knows anything about this. I also asked some of the men of the
Light Division that I know do this to their own weapons. None of them
had a hand in this."
"Which leaves us with two possible conclusions."
Edrington said, meeting
the eyes of each of his three companions in turn. "One, it was an act of
God"; they laughed derisively, "And two, someone in the last village we
camped near did this."
Sharpe nodded, somewhat surprised the Edrington could come
conclusion so easily.
"And the only way we'll know for sure" he continued.
"Is to go back to
that village and see what we can find out. But its nearly three days
ride behind us..." He waited.
"And by this time behind enemy lines." William finished.