Not For Honour Alone, Part 18
The sun was nearly gone behind the western hills before Sharpe
Harper returned. Edrington had spent the hours since they left pacing
the small grove of trees, while Kennedy and Owen had sat in the shade,
quietly conversing. At one particularly annoying burst of laughter
Edrington had nearly shouted "SHUT UP!" at the top of his lungs, but had
managed to restrain himself. He rubbed his forehead, forcing himself to
Iron self-discipline was all that prevented him from leaping
the sound of Kennedy's voice.
"Archie?" he replied.
"Staring at the village isn't going to make them come
back any sooner.
You need to get out of the sun and have something to eat."
He smiled slightly to himself. No matter what trials and tribulations
passed through in his life he knew he could always count on Kennedy. And
"All right Archie. I'll get out of the sun and stop staring."
into the shade and sat heavily. When he leaned back and rested his spine
against a tree trunk he breathed an audible sigh of relief. The shoulder
was hurting somewhat, and he rolled it once to dispel the ache.
Owen caught the small movement. "Is that shoulder bothering
he asked. "Do you want me to have a look, sir?"
"No Owen. It hurts, but that's to be expected."
He smiled reassuringly.
"I'll be fine."
Owen nodded once and moved to the other side of the copse.
He lay down
on his greatcoat with one of the saddlebags as a pillow. Within moments
he was snoring quietly.
"Ah, the joys of unsullied youth!" Kennedy said,
ruefully. "I can't
imagine myself just dropping off like that anymore. There was a
time...." He shook his head. "No more, I'm afraid." He glanced at his
friend out of the corner of his eye. "Are you sure you're all right,
"Not you too!" Edrington said, leaning his head back
and closing his
eyes. "I'm fine, Archie. Fine. So stop staring at me like that." He
was quiet for a time, then his eyes flew open and he confronted his
friend. "You never did finish telling me the real reason you came to
Spain. You implied that Emma was worried about William. Why? Is
something the matter with one of the twins?"
"Sort of." A look of alarm crossed Edrington's face
and Kennedy held up
a hand. "Nothing physical, she's all right, its just that..." He
sighed. "Your mother's death hit everybody hard, Hal. It was a total
surprise, and I think the children feel it more than any of us. You know
how much she loved all of them, and how she spoiled them. And Sarah...."
An image of his young niece flashed through Edrington's mind.
she was an exact duplicate of her late mother; beautiful red hair and
flashing green eyes. But her personality was indelibly stamped with her
grandmother's influence. Her strength of will, her pride; all were
identical to the late Dowager Countess of Edrington. It explained a
"And I guess Emma thinks that William's long absences
from home don't
help matters either." Edrington thought for a moment. "When was he last
Kennedy swallowed before replying. "Over two years ago."
Edrington was shocked, and it showed. "Has it been that long? Truly?"
Kennedy nodded. "Truly. And I worry that his daughters
will never know
him. Perhaps if he were home Sarah wouldn't be so out of sorts."
"He needs to go home. As soon as possible. I should have realized..."
"For pity's sake Hal!" Kennedy said with disgust.
"You aren't all
knowing and all seeing! You certainly couldn't have known or predicted
this. But you're right in one thing; William needs to go home. And you
Edrington laughed, but there was a note of bitterness in it.
Sharpe and Harper find something out I will be going home, Archie.
Permanently. In fact, CHRIST!!!!" he exclaimed and immediately dropped
to the earth. He reached up with one hand, caught Kennedy's coattails
and dragged him down as well.
"Hal, what the...?" He fell abruptly silent. His
eyes followed his
friend's line of sight, and he saw what Edrington had seen.
A small patrol of French dragoons was entering the village.
only ten of them, but that was enough to set Edrington's heart racing.
He nervously glanced toward the other end of the village's main street,
willing Sharpe and Harper not to appear.
"Good God!" Kennedy whispered. "What perfect
timing." He looked over
his shoulder to where Owen lay, still asleep. "Now what?" he asked.
"We wait. And pray."
Sharpe had gotten progressively more frustrated as the day
had worn on.
It was all well to speculate, in theory, about who had altered that
blasted musket, but proving it was another matter all together. The
village blacksmith was beyond elderly; blind, toothless and with fewer
wits than he had been born with. The smithy was run by his son, an
arrogant piece of work who refused to answer any questions beyond
admitting that he had done some work for the British when the army was in
"Sweet Jesus." Harper muttered as the left the smithy.
thought we were attempting to interfere with his mother's virtue for all
the warmth he showed us."
"Its not surprising, Pat. He probably has the Frogs breathing
neck, so he'd be out to avoid trouble no matter what." He turned and
looked back toward the doorway. "Still, he did seem a little too
nervous, didn't he?"
"Yes sir. You could say that." Harper turned around
like his captain,
and was greeted with the sight of a woman running down the street towards
them. She was small, but with a nicely rounded figure. She was
something of a rarity, a blonde haired Spaniard. She came toward them
and without stopping she grabbed Harper's hand and pulled him into the
shadow of a nearby building.
Sharpe was startled and reacted a moment after. By the time
the pair they were conversing rapidly in Spanish; at least she was.
Harper's spare, elementary knowledge of the language putting him at a
disadvantage. He looked helplessly at his captain, gesturing to the
She looked from Harper to Sharpe and launched into more staccato
Sharpe's knowledge of the language was marginally better than the
sergeant's but he was still somewhat at a loss. One word came through
clear, however. Ingles. English. She kept repeating it, sometimes as a
question and then as a statement.
Sharpe was at a loss. He took hold of the woman's shoulders
and gave her
a slight shake. The rapid flow of words came to a halt and she looked up
at the captain.
"What's your name?" Sharpe asked her, the Spanish
words falling heavily
from his tongue.
"Antonia." was the response. Now that her initial
rush of words was over
she seemed nervous in their presence. Her eyes jumped from one to the
other of them. Sharpe sensed her uneasiness, and tried to set her at
"Antonia." he said, smiling. "That's my daughter's
name." He released
her shoulders. "Why did you follow us, Antonia?"
Her eyes again jumped from Sharpe to Harper. "Ingles?" she asked again.
Sharpe nodded once, deciding now was not the time to distinguish
from the Irishman. "Yes, we're English."
Antonia was still staring at Harper, and the huge man grinned
For whatever reason she suddenly relaxed, and the words came again, but
calmer and slower. Slow enough that both men could understand her.
She was the daughter of the village tavern keeper, and betrothed
blacksmith's son. Betrothed without her consent, she made perfectly
clear. She spat on the ground when she said his name, making her
feelings toward her intended husband perfectly clear.
"The English officer that came." she said, her voice
husky. "He had
weapons. Ferdinand said he was working with the guilleraros, but if that
was so why did he come alone? He would have come with one of the
partisan leaders, wouldn't he?"
"More than likely." Sharpe agreed with her. "What
did this English
officer look like, Antonia?"
She shook her head slightly, then sketched a line in the air
Harper's shoulder. "Not tall." she said. "Pale hair and eyes. Ugly and
Sharpe and Harper met each other's eyes. An incomplete description,
be sure, but it was enough to mark Major Harlan.
"What do we do now, sir?" Harper asked. He jerked
a thumb back towards
the smithy. "That bastard'll kill her if he knows what she told us."
Sharpe was thinking. Like Harper he feared for the woman's
life if she
stayed. And he testimony would mean a great deal more if it was
delivered to the court martial first hand. But how were they to get back
to the army with her, through French infested territory? And worse, what
would Colonel Edrington think?
"Sir!!!!!" Harper's voice was suddenly urgent in his ear.
Sharpe turned and beheld a sight that chilled him to the bone.
dragoons, all mounted, were making their way down the village's main
street. Ten of them. A scouting party, to be sure, but they were more
than enough to put a halt to this mad enterprise. He grabbed Antonia by
the hand and ducked into the narrow alley between two buildings. They
were tall enough to block most of the sun, so the three were hidden by
"The can't have found the colonel and Mister Kennedy."
"We'd have heard something by now."
Sharpe agreed with his sergeant, but his mind was on a more
matter. How the devil were they to get out of the village and back to
the copse of trees without being captured themselves?
Antonia pulled her hand free of Sharpe's and gestured urgently.
started to move further down the alley, beckoning the pair to follow her.
"Seems she knows a way out, sir." Harper said. He started to follow her.
Sharpe caught the Irishman's shoulder. "Are you mad?
Can we really
Harper pointed to the main street; the dragoons just passing
much choice do you think we have?"