Not For Honour Alone, part 13
"NO! Absolutely not! I am not going to authorize that!"
blue eyes blazed as he shouted.
Edrington had to force himself not to flinch from the general's
He struggled to remain calm in the face of Wellington's opposition; his
emotions at that moment were very close to the surface. Anger, fear, and
a measure of desperation were all prominent. He instincts were screaming
that his only chance to prove his case lay in going back to that last
village, and he was determined to get there, by fair means or foul.
Wellington's speech had died away as his anger exhausted itself,
Edrington took advantage of the space to get in a few words.
"I understand your concerns, sir, but I firmly believe
this is the best
chance we have of discovering something of what happened."
Wellington raised an eyebrow. "You understand? Good
God, Colonel, but
you have gall! You don't understand a bloody thing! Let me just see if
I've got this straight."he said. "You stand there and actually expect
me to allow you and Captain Sharpe to disappear, behind enemy lines, to
hunt for non-existent evidence that your second-in-command orchestrated
this entire mess in an effort to discredit you and gain command of the
battalion??? I know you've been ill, but now I think you've just gone
completely mad!!" He collapsed into his chair and sighed, scrubbing his
face with one hand. "I wish, just once, that I could understand you,
Edrington. As long as we've known each other the workings of your mind
are still a mystery to me."
Edrington half smiled. "I could say the same for you."
And he sat in
the other chair when Wellington gestured for him to do so.
"Why is this so important to you?"Wellington asked.
Edrington shrugged. "I don't rightly know, and I don't
think I could
explain it even if I did." He leaned his head back and stared at the
canvas. "Haven't you ever just felt something so strongly that you knew
you'd risk almost anything for it?"
Wellington was thoughtful for a moment. "Yes, I have.
But a common
soldier? What possible importance could there be in this young man?"
"A common soldier?"Edrington asked, parrot-like.
"You know I've never
thought of my men like that. And Andrews...." He stopped speaking and
retreated into thought. "I sense something in him. He may not be the
best soldier out there, or even the best orderly, but he has a good
heart. Besides, if, as I suspect, he's accepting all the blame in some
misguided effort to protect me, I owe him the same protection in return."
Wellington studied his companion for a moment. "Do you
that Major Harlan was involved in this?" He held up a hand when
Edrington started to reply. "Absolute truth, Hal. I'll accept nothing
Edrington's voice did not waver one bit as he replied. "Yes,
I do. The
only question remaining is did he plot all of this or just take advantage
of circumstances that arose. And that is what I intend to find out."
Wellington stood. "I can accept that, but I'm afraid
you'll have to do
it from right here. I'm adamant on this count, Colonel. I am not going
to allow two of my best officers to go haring off on a wild goose chase."
Edrington started to protest but the expression on the general's
stopped him. The blazing anger was still simmering beneath the surface.
"If you do chase off after whatever ghosts you think are
out there, you
do so without my consent. And you know what that means."
Back in the 86th's camp Edrington found Sharpe, Kennedy and
gathered around the remnants of the dying fire. They looked like they
hadn't moved since he had left to speak to Wellington, but when they saw
him approaching they stood up and began speaking at once.
Finally the furor died down and Sharpe's quiet voice came.
all he said.
Edrington shook his head. "The general will not authorize
this. If we
do it"he continued, meeting Sharpe's eyes as he spoke, "We do it alone,
and we do it without leave."
"Which would land us in even more trouble than we've already
"So what will you do?"Kennedy asked.
"I don't see that I have much choice, Archie." Edrington
was silent for
a moment. "I disobey a direct order from my commanding officer."
William and Kennedy both gasped.
"You can't be serious, Hal!"William exclaimed. "I
mean, you've already
staked your honour and reputation. Why stake your life as well?"
Edrington met his brother's eyes. "I don't expect you
William. You've withdrawn yourself from every human emotion and every
finer feeling since Annie's death!"
"Hal...."Kennedy said, a hint of warning in his voice,
but it was
already too late.
William stood up, his face pale in the firelight and his green
blazing. "I am not even going to dignify that with a response. But
since that is what you apparently think of me, you can count me out of
this whole mess. In this case I truly don't give a damn." And he
whirled and strode off.
Edrington watched his brother walk away, then turned and met
"Why do you have to be like this?"Kennedy asked.
"Why do you always
have to be so hard on him? I think he deserves better from you."
"Why should anybody be soft with him, Archie? He's a
Unfortunately, he's also a somewhat irresponsible one." He stopped and
blew his breath out in a gusty sigh. "I just don't understand him
anymore." He looked at Kennedy. "And even you can't deny that he's
changed over the years since Annie died."
"No, I don't deny it. Just as you've changed over the
years. Its called
growth, Hal. Neither of us is the same as when we first met, yet I don't
see you hurling accusations like that at me. And maybe you should try
putting yourself in his place. Think about it for a minute; where would
you be without Sarah?"
Edrington's mind flashed back to the dream he'd just had, and
acknowledged the justice in Kennedy's words.
"I just wish, for his own sake, that William would rejoin
the human race.
Let alone for the sake of his daughters. Ten years is a very long time
to mourn, wouldn't you say?"
"Perhaps."Kennedy replied, turning his head to stare
out at the
darkness. "Perhaps not. Scarcely a day goes by that I don't think of
Annie, and miss her with all my heart and soul."
Edrington had the good taste to look abashed. "I'm sorry,
Sometimes I forget."
Kennedy turned back to his friend, his familiar grin in place.
"Sometimes its easy to forget. But I think we should get back to the
business at hand, don't you?"
Edrington flushed in embarrassment and turned to Sharpe. "I'm
Captain. You didn't need to be pulled into our family squabble."
Sharpe simply nodded in response to the apology, quashing his
When he spoke he went right to business. "If we're going to actually do
this, we need to leave as soon as possible. If we put it off we'll be in
even greater danger."
Edrington ran a hand through his unruly, curly hair. "Agreed.
ride my other horse, Sharpe, and we'll leave just before first light. Do
"Just one thing, sir."Sharpe said. "Can you
get another horse? I think
Sergeant Harper would be useful to have along, especially if we need to
fight our way out."
Edrington grinned, thinking of the giant Irishman who looked
could single-handedly take out the entire Grande Armee. "Of course. I
was planning on bringing Owen along as well, so I think we'll be well
served." He looked at his friend. "Archie? I won't ask you to come
along, but I won't say no if you choose to."
Kennedy looked from Edrington to Sharpe, and then back again.
really believe this is your only chance to save Andrews?"he asked.
"I really do."Edrington said. He glanced quickly
at Sharpe and then
amended his statement. "I think its our only chance to see justice, both
for Andrews and for Dobbs." Sharpe nodded once in agreement.
"Well."Kennedy said. "In that case, I'd like
to see you try and stop
Edrington grinned and put an arm around his friend's shoulders.
other he reached out and shook Sharpe's hand.
"In that case, gentlemen, prepare yourselves, for we are
about to become
outlaws. Tomorrow we desert."