Not For Honour Alone, Part 16
"So, now that we're here just what are we supposed to
do?" Sharpe asked,
scanning the village with his telescope for any sign of activity. It was
the height of the day, and like most Spaniards the inhabitants were
having their siestas; sleeping off their lunches in the shade.
What little shade there was. Hard-scrabble earth stretched
as far as the
eye could see. Whatever supported this small community it certainly
wasn't farming. Sharpe, Edrington, Kennedy, Harper and Owen were
sheltering in the only copse of trees visible, about two hundred yards
from the nearest building.
It was two days after they had departed the army; two days
in which they
had ridden hard, one eye watching over their shoulders and the other on
the lookout for the French. Two uneventful days.
Sharpe passed the telescope and Edrington took hold of it,
intently at the village beyond. Not a sign of life. He collapsed the
scope carefully, noting as he did so the quality of the instrument. He
handed it back to Sharpe before he spoke.
"We wait here. No sense in going in now. Not only would
we attract an
unwelcome amount of attention, but its not likely we'll learn anything
Kennedy moved away from the other men and sat, his back propped
tree. "I've always admired that about you, Hal. That gift for
understatement." He was smiling as he spoke.
Edrington acknowledged the comment with a look. "It comes
in useful at
"So, beggin' your pardons sirs, but what are we supposed
to do now that
we are here?" The question, spoken in Harper's soft tones, brought
everyone back to the task at hand. He was looking at Sharpe when he
spoke, but with a wave of his hand the captain deferred to Edrington.
"Well, Harper, you'll be one of the first to know just
as soon as I
figure it out." Edrington responded, just a bit sheepishly. "I confess I
hadn't thought that far in advance."
Sharpe spoke up then. "Perhaps you should leave this
up to Harper and I,
sir. With respect, sir, I think we stand a better chance of getting the
answers we need."
"Why is that?" Kennedy asked.
"Do you speak Spanish, Mister Kennedy?" Sharpe asked
with a pointed
glance at the other man.
"Point taken, Captain." Kennedy had the good grace
to laugh. "I could
talk us out of trouble if we ran into the French, but Spanish...." He
shook his head. "That is one language I have not mastered." He sighed.
"Now, if Horatio were here...."
"He'd berate us for getting mixed up in this whole mess
to begin with."
Edrington said, more or less completing Kennedy's thought. "Then he'd
think of a way to exonerate Andrews without endangering our own lives or
positions." Edrington laughed. "And he'd finish by throwing our arses
in the brig for desertion!"
Kennedy was chuckling by the time Edrington finished the catalog.
an all too accurate depiction of their mutual friend.
Sharpe was puzzled by the conversation, and it showed on his
looked from one to the other, and his expression set the both of them off
"I'm sorry, Sharpe." Kennedy gasped, stifling the
last outburst of
laughter. "I suppose you would have to know the man to understand what
exactly is so humourous about this."
"If you're talking about Captain Horatio Hornblower, I've
heard of him,
sir." Sharpe said. "He's a hero."
"Indeed." Edrington said with a smile. "He is that."
Kennedy was still laughing. "He wasn't always. When
we get out of this,
Sharpe, I'll tell you a few stories about Captain Hornblower. Stories
that are sure to take the rosy bloom of heroism from his cheeks." He
found himself grinning at the memories. "Starting with his penchant for
Almost against his will Sharpe found himself smiling. "I'd
sir." He nodded once. "When we get out of this." he repeated, the
slightest of emphases on the first word.
"Well done, Archie." Edrington said quietly as Sharpe
moved to confer
with Harper. "I knew it wouldn't take long for you to turn on that
Kennedy Charm and have him eating out of your hand. I much prefer a
friendly Captain Sharpe to a scowling one."
"He's a good man, Hal. Maybe a little too angry, a little
frustrated, but at heart he's solid." Kennedy thought for a moment.
"Its strange, in the army, the ideas of gentlemanly behavior' that are
adhered to. Sharpe certainly doesn't qualify by any of those standards,
but I'd say he is a gentleman. He has honour, and he cares. Not a bad
start, wouldn't you say?" he asked with a sidelong glance for his friend.
"Wellington said he was the perfect man to have at your
back in a fight."
Edrington said. "The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what he'd do
there. Will he guard my back, or stab me in it?" He shivered. "By and
large I trust him, but there's that element of anger in him that makes me
uneasy. My having a bloody title doesn't help matters, of course."
"Of course, your lordship!" Kennedy said with a grin.
He stood up.
"I'll just go and see what they're up to, shall I?" he asked with a nod
of his head to Sharpe, Harper, and Owen.
Edrington leaned back against the tree and sighed. It was
relaxed he had felt since before he had fallen ill. The pain in his
shoulder was reduced to a dull ache, and the warmth of the sun worked him
over. He tipped his hat to shade his eyes and let them drift closed.
"He's rather interesting, your friend."
Edrington started awake, surprised by the voice that spoke
He pushed his hat back and squinted into the light of the setting sun.
He could see Kennedy talking with Harper and Owen; as natural and
comfortable with the two sergeants as he would be with an earl or a duke.
"You could say that." he responded before looking up at the rifleman.
Sharpe had changed into civilian clothes. He still wore the
pants of his Rifles uniform, but they were topped by a dull brown jacket
that looked several sizes too large. His sword belt was gone, as was the
sword. In its place was a simple leather belt spanning his waist, with a
pistol tucked into it. Edrington was on the verge of objecting to the
carrying of any weapon into the village when he realized that it would
lend authenticity to their story. No one traveling in a war torn country
would travel unarmed.
He stood and looked Sharpe over. With a brief nod he gave
"Well done, Captain. But..."
Edrington laughed. "I'm sorry, but you look like a boy
playing in his
father's clothes in that jacket! Couldn't you get a better fit?"
Sharpe fingered the overlong sleeve and started to roll them
up to leave
his hands free. He smiled. "Harps did the best he could on such short
"Granted." Edrington looked over at Harper, who
had gotten to his feet
and was approaching one of the horses. He had a pair of pliers in his
hand. He spoke soothingly to the animal, and the horse calmly raised his
foot for an inspection. Harper worked three nails loose from the shoe,
just enough to cause the animal discomfort and make him come up lame. He
looked up from his work and gave Edrington a smile.
"That should do it." he said. "No awkward questions
about why we need a
blacksmith." If possible his grin became even broader.
"Well done, Harper." Edrington said.
"Sir?" Sharpe called. "With you permission,
sir." he said with a gesture
toward the village.
"By all means, Mister Sharpe." Edrington replied. "Carry on."
With a nod of acknowledgment Sharpe turned to his sergeant.
Harper took hold of the lame horse's reins with one hand, and
other passed his seven-barreled gun to Kennedy. "Take care of that, sir,
but don't try and use it. I'd hate to think of a stripling like yourself
being hurt." And he walked off with one last grin over his shoulder,
leading the horse.
Kennedy snorted. "I haven't been called a stripling since
thirteen. But I suppose to a giant like Harper I look that way." At
6'4" Harper stood over half a foot taller than Kennedy, and he was
"To Harper every man is a stripling." Edrington said.
He took a few
steps in the direction of the village, intently watching as the figures
of Sharpe and Harper grew smaller.
"It'll be all right, sir." Owen spoke to his commander
for the first time
since they had arrived. "The captain knows what he's doing."
"I'm sure he does." Edrington said. "I just
wish he had let me know as
well." He turned back around to his companions. "No use dwelling on it.
We wait." He finally noticed the huge gun that Kennedy held
respectfully in his hands. "Good God Archie! What the devil is that?"