Not For Honour Alone, Part 15
The following morning found Major Harlan in a high good humour.
in temporary command of the 86th he had taken full advantage of Colonel
Edrington's absence. Private Treverton was sent back to his company, and
Sergeant Owen was listed as a deserter in the battalion records. Harlan
had done the last in defiance of Wellington's recommendation.
"There's no reason for you to know exactly what is going
on, Major." the
general had said. "Colonel Edrington is on a special mission, and
Sergeant Owen accompanied him. That is all."
Harlan had left the commander's tent unhappy, but Wellington was adamant.
"Why didn't you tell him the truth?" Colonel Adler asked.
"I don't honestly know." was the response. "Maybe
some of Edrington's
dislike and distrust of the man is rubbing off on me."
"It would certainly seem so, my lord. Do you really think
What Lord Edrington's accused him of, I mean."
"Perhaps." Wellington was quiet for a moment, thinking.
answer, I hope Edrington finds it before the French find him."
In truth Major Harlan couldn't have cared less about where
gone, or why he went there. It was enough that he was gone. Really, he
thought to himself. I should have just let well enough alone. He was
bound to dig himself under eventually.
Harlan snapped out of his reverie to see Captain Langdon beside
"What is it, Captain?" he barked.
"The battalion is ready to move out, sir. We're just
waiting on your
"Very well, Captain. Let's be on our way." And
he mounted his horse and
took the lead position in front of the regimental colours. As they moved
off he had a satisfied smirk on his face.
After about an hour of Harlan's insufferable smugness Langdon
take any more. He slowed his mount and drifted back through the ranks.
As the men passed by he caught snatches of conversation.
"Everyone knows it was all rigged."
"That bastard Arlan. Ee'll get is."
"Wot did Andrews do to deserve this?"
"What'll happen if the colonel doesn't come back?"
The last was spoken by a young man of the light company. The
and fear were obvious in his voice, as was the respect, admiration, and
even affection he had for Colonel Edrington. Langdon checked his horse
for a moment, waiting to hear what the response would be.
"His Lordship'll be back, lad. Don't you fret about that.
settle Major Harlan once and for all."
Langdon reined to a stop then, surprised by all that had been
much that had not. It was painfully clear that the rank and file of the
86th had great respect for their commander, and less than none for their
major. He himself had always thought the worst of Edrington; a wealthy
and titled fop, as incompetent as he was privileged. But now he was
starting to rethink matters. True, he had been offended at the lack of
consideration displayed in placing a non-Cornishman in command of this
regiment, but was that reason enough to distrust the man? The men
trusted him, and would stand by him if it came down to that. Could he do
The last ranks of the light company were passing, and he spied
face and form in the middle of the column.
"Private Treverton!" he called.
Treverton looked up and about, finally noticing Langdon waiting
the side. His shoulders dropped and with a halting step he passed
between the other men and approached the captain.
"Sir?" he asked, unwilling to meet Langdon's eyes.
The captain saw that reluctance and swung himself from the
stand face to face with the young man. Off the lofty perch of the horse
he found himself unsure and unnerved.
"I..." he began. "I wanted you to know, Private,
that I didn't agree
with Major Harlan's decision. Regarding Sergeant Owen, I mean."
Treverton was surprised, so much so that he overcame his nervousness.
looked up. "Why would you think I care, sir?" he asked.
"Don't be a fool, Treverton. Owen was protective of you,
any one could
see that. I'm sorry that it had to come to this."
Treverton shook his head. "You should be more sorry about Andrews."
"Pardon?" Langdon asked, not quite believing his ears.
Treverton fully met the captain's eyes then, with an expression
akin to contempt. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Langdon could only nod.
"You, none of you officers, gave a good God damn about
what happened." he
said, his voice lowered for Langdon's ears only. "Major Harlan is a
worthless piece of I don't know what, and you've shown yourself to be no
better. Only Colonel Edrington cared enough to take up this fight." He
looked Langdon up and down. "You pride yourself on being one of us, sir.
A Cornishman. Why can't you show at least half that pride for Andrews?
The colonel..." His voice broke. "The colonel isn't like that; he
doesn't care one way or another. He'd protect any one of us, and he'd do
it however he had to."
"Why?" Langdon asked, genuinely confused. "Why
does he need to protect
"Are ye daft, sir? Major Harlan wants the colonel gone,
and he's using
Andrews to get to him!"
Langdon was stunned. He glanced quickly toward the front of
almost as if he expected the major to descend upon them at any moment.
"Is this what you believe?" He gestured to include the entire battalion.
"Is this what you all believe?"
"Come on, man! You've not been afraid to say what's on
your mind up to
this point! So tell me the truth!"
"Yes, sir. Its what we believe." He shrugged.
"Not all of us; Major
Harlan has his toadies, but most of us agree."
Langdon stopped and thought for a moment. He could remember
words to him the other day, about getting caught up in Edrington's folly
and getting dragged down with the colonel. Other memories came flooding
in as well; Harlan specifically ordering that Andrews take part in that
patrol, his unwillingness to inquire into the matter during Edrington's
illness, his contemptuous attitude towards his commander and the men, and
most particularly his defiance of Wellington's orders with regard to
Owen. He met Treverton's eyes.
"All right private. I see your point. Let's keep this
between you and me for the time being though, shall we?"
"Yes sir." Treverton said. "Sir, do you...? He couldn't finish.
"I see your point, Treverton." Langdon repeated,
staring pointedly at the
younger man. He climbed back into his saddle. "I'll do what I can."
The following morning found Langdon pacing agitatedly outside
Wellington's headquarters tent. He had spent the previous evening
wandering the camp, carefully listening to conversations around him and
gauging the mood of the men. It was ugly, to say the least. He had also
attempted to see and speak with Andrews, but had been politely, if
insitently, turned away. "Not without His Lordship's permission." was
the comment he heard.
Which was why he was there at that moment, nervously awaiting
a chance to
speak with the commander in chief of the army. Normally he would never
have dared such an impertinence, but he was beginning to feel a sense of
desperation. He was now as thoroughly convinced as any soldier of the
86th that Harlan was behind the entire mess, and he needed Wellington's
help if he was to do anything about it.
Langdon started and spun around.
"The general will see you."
He entered the tent, not quite knowing what to expect. As
he saluted it
occurred to him that this was the closest he had ever been to Wellington.
The general was not quite as tall as he had imagined, and his nose
appeared even longer at close range, but his bright blue eyes were
piercing as they studied Langson with a special intensity.
"What can I do for you, Captain?" he asked.
"Out with it, man! We don't have much time."
Langdon straightened himself up and stood at attention. "Sir,
permission I wish to speak to Private Andrews."
"So that's it, is it?" He gave a short bark of laughter.
Langdon, I was wondering how long it would take you to come around on
this." He turned to his desk and penned a quick note. "Permission
"Just like that, sir?"
"Just like that." He nodded toward the tent flap.
"Get a move on,
Captain. Edrington needs all the help he can get."
Langdon saluted, but couldn't prevent the smile that spread
face. "Yes, sir! At once, sir!"