Not For Honour Alone, Part 17
Captain Langdon was beginning to feel like the worst sort of
He had a willing partner in Private Treverton, and the two of them were
chasing around behind Major Harlan's back, in search of anything that
could aid Colonel Edrington in his cause. Thus far they had only
discovered just how universally disliked Harlan was. Not just amongst
the enlisted men, but by his fellow officers. And not just his comrades
in the battalion. No, he was quite heartily despised by nearly all the
officers in the division.
He also had a bad reputation with the Spanish merchants who
behind the army, peddling everything from new boots, to liquor, to women.
Rafael Ordonez, who provided the best quality women to the British
officers, had been especially forthcoming about Harlan. When Langdon had
asked about the major Ordonez had spit on the ground, as if Harlan's name
left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I will not discuss that bastard!" he had exclaimed
in his heavily
accented English. "But you can tell him from me that if I ever catch him
anywhere near my women I'll kill him myself." The Spaniard fingered the
hilt of his dagger suggestively. "It would be my pleasure."
All of which was very interesting, but didn't go a step towards
that Harlan had instigated the incident that had resulted in Andrews
being on trial for his life.
Neither had his conversation with Andrews. The private had
even stoic. His complacency had annoyed Langdon, and he had decided to
shake him up a bit.
"You do know what Colonel Edrington has done for you,
don't you?" he had
Andrews had simply shaken his head and then turned away from the captain.
"He's risked everything for you." Langdon said, barely
above a whisper,
but he knew by the tightening of his shoulders that Andrews heard. "He's
gone to find proof that Major Harlan had that musket tampered with."
That had gotten some attention. Andrews half-turned. "Gone
"Gone." Langdon repeated, making his voice harsh.
"Technically, he's a
Andrews turned a shocked and wide-eyed face to Langdon. "Des...?"
swallowed, hard. "Deserted??"
"Yes, Andrews. He's deserted for you. Run off to attempt
to find out
something, anything, that will clear you of this charge and put Major
Harlan in your place."
Andrews shook his head, almost desperately. His mouth shaped
"no" but no sound came out. He looked to be on the verge of tears.
As moved as he was by the other man's obvious distress, Langdon
he couldn't let it show. "I'll let you sit and think about what others
are risking for you, and I'll come back in two days time. Maybe by then
you'll be willing to risk something for yourself."
A day later he was still trying to make sense of all the pieces
gathered. An altered musket, Andrews' presence on that patrol, and
Harlan's only too obvious hatred of the Colonel. But how did everything
fit together? He remembered Wellington's final words to him, and he
believed that the general wanted him to do what he could to help
Edrington. At the moment he was at a loss on how to do that.
Langdon turned to face Treverton. "What is it, Private?"
Treverton looked carefully around before continuing. His voice
pitched just above a whisper; quiet and confidential. "I was thinking,
sir. Maybe you should speak to Captain Edrington. His Lordship's
brother. He might know something."
"His brother? Good God!" Langdon shook his head.
"Bloody hell. I
never thought of that. He's a cavalry officer, isn't he?"
Langdon grinned. "Carry on, Private."
Shortly after sunset Langdon was able to slip away. Contrary
usual form Major Harlan had joined the other officers in the mess, making
it difficult for Langdon to make his escape. He was sick of the whole
mess, but he was committed to it. There was a great deal of thin, sour
wine making the rounds, and Harlan had drunk more than his fair share.
When Private Gaynor came to help the major to his tent Langdon had mad
his excuses and fled the scene.
He followed the sound of ringing hammers and the smell of saddle
the cavalry camp. He felt out of place and very self-conscious amongst
the more elegant men of the horse troops, but he never faltered. He
needed answers to his questions, and he believed that Captain The
Honourable William Edrington could provide some.
Although finding him represented a problem. He had no clue
the younger Edrington was a part of, so he wandered somewhat aimlessly
amongst the men and horses, hoping to catch a glimpse of a tall man with
blond hair. Of course, he said to himself, if William doesn't resemble
his brother it won't do me much good, will it?
Just as the thought passed through his mind he saw, coming
towards him, a
tall man with hair so blond it was almost white. He towered over those
around him, and Langdon halted, almost afraid that this was the person he
was seeking. His long easy stride was reminiscent of the Colonel's, as
was the high forehead and aquiline nose.
"I have a very uncomfortable feeling that you're looking
Captain...?" William's voice rose slightly on the last word, making a
"Langdon." was the response. His voice cracked halfway
through the word,
so he tried again. "Captain Langdon, 86th Cornwall." He extended his
hand then, unsure, pulled it back again.
William reached out and clasped the hesitant hand in a firm
Langdon, its a pleasure. I won't bother with introducing myself, as I
imagine you already know who I am." He waved a hand toward the far end
of the camp. "Shall we walk as we talk?"
Langdon could only nod, and the pair set out. They were silent
time, then Langdon's curiosity got the better of him.
"How did you know I was here?" he asked, "Let alone looking for you."
William grinned, his white teeth showing brilliant in the darkness.
"Nearly everyone in the cavalry knows my brother, so they recognized the
facings on your uniform. Word gets around, so I decided to come out and
find you myself."
"Do they also know about what your brother has done?"
William's step faltered for a moment, but he quickly recovered
"Yes, they do, but they don't hold that against me." He glanced at the
man beside him. "Can I take it that you are here because you're trying
to help Hal? I'd hate to think you came all this way as a lackey of
Major Harlan's. That bastard!" he said, all but spitting the words.
"What makes you say that?" Langdon asked. William
glared at him. "Not
that I'm disagreeing, but you seem to have a particular reason for
disliking and distrusting him so much. Why?"
"Answer my question first, Captain. Are you trying to
help my brother,
or further discredit him?"
Langdon halted and looked up at the tall cavalryman. "I'm
trying to help
him, but frankly I don't know how. I have a very strong suspicion about
what this whole situation is about, but I have no way of proving
anything. None of the facts seem to tie together, and Andrews...." He
left the sentence hanging.
"Andrews still not talking?"
"No. I think he knows something, but..." Langdon
shrugged. "I gave him
a bit of a shock the other day. Maybe that'll scare him into telling
what he knows."
"Or what he thinks he knows." William mused. "Frankly,
altogether convinced that he even knows what all is going on. Unless
Harlan's gotten to him and put the fear of God into him."
Langdon shook his head. "No, he hasn't spoken to him,
or been anywhere
near him. Nobody gets close without Wellington's permission, and I doubt
Major Harlan would care enough to bother. He's convinced that he's won
this round, and all he has to do is wait for Colonel Edrington to fall on
his sword." He smiled slightly. "Figuratively speaking, of course."
"Of course. Although knowing Hal..." William shook
his head. "I wish I
could do something, instead of sitting here, waiting. I don't enjoy
"Why did you brother desert?"
William sighed heavily. "How much do you know, Langdon?"
"Enough, I think. I know that the musket Andrews was
carrying that night
was tampered with. I know that Harlan is an unscrupulous man who'll do
what it takes, and use whomever he needs to, to get what he wants. And
what he wants is command of the 86th."
"Which he has as of right now." William said, turning
to enter a tent in
the row. Langdon followed and took a seat on the camp stool. "But he
wants something else as well. Gaining command is simply the extra
motivation that he needs. He wants to see Hal destroyed, discredited and
dishonoured. I'm damned if I know why, but that's the brass ring in all
of this." His eyes took on a far-away look. "I wonder...."
William looked at Langdon, an angry fire beginning the depths
green eyes. "If I had some facts about Harlan I think I could figure
this out. There's something about his name that strikes me as familiar,
but I can't place it. If you get me the answers to some questions we may
be able to get some steps ahead of him. Will you help me?" he asked,
Something of William's fervency was catching and Langdon felt
mind begin to race. The thought of gaining a step or two on Harlan was
almost intoxicating, and he had an inkling of how the younger Edrington
meant to go about it. He nodded, emphatically.
"Good. This is what I need to know..."