Not For Honour Alone, Part 19
"And just what exactly are we supposed to do with her?"
Edrington's anger was palpable. Sharpe stood calmly and weathered
storm, while Harper stood behind his captain, the young woman at his
side. She was clinging to his arm and had her face averted, but
Edrington had caught a glimpse of her face, and he was surprised. She
was perhaps not beautiful in any traditional sense, but she had
well-defined features and a pair of brown eyes that seemed to dominate
her entire face. He took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.
Sharpe saw some of the starch go out of Edrington's stance,
and judged it
was safe to speak. They were within the copse of trees, now heavily
shadowed as the sun dropped in the west. The uproar had finally awakened
Owen, but other than an anxious glance at his commander to ensure he was
all right he had shown no interest in the proceedings.
"With respect, sir, this may be the only way we can win
our case." he
said. "First hand testimony would be better than anything we could say
on her behalf."
"I realize that, Sharpe. But this amounts to kidnapping!
Her father is
not going to believe that she left of her own free will, and it will sow
more discord between us and the Spaniards. Damn it all!" he growled,
pounding his fist into the palm of his other hand.
"Hal, you might want to keep your voice down." Kennedy
"That French patrol is still out there."
"Bloody hell!" Edrington muttered.
Sharpe took a step closer to the colonel and dropped his voice.
sorry, sir, but it seemed best at the time."
"And what happens to her after she stands up in court
Sharpe? She can't stay with the army; she'll end up as a whore."
"Believe it or not I've thought of that as well. I'll
send her to
Teresa. There will be a place for her there."
"Teresa?" Edrington was genuinely puzzled.
"My wife, sir." Sharpe stated, blandly. "Antonia
will be well cared for
in Casatejada with the Moreno family."
"Moreno?" Edrington asked. Something about that
name struck him as
familiar, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was. He remembered a
reference to Moreno in a conversation he had with William about the
partisans. When he made the connection he looked at Sharpe, shock making
his eyes wide.
"Teresa Moreno is your wife? La Aguja? The Needle?"
"Yes sir. You seem surprised."
"Damn it all Sharpe, I am surprised!" Edrington
shook his head. "I
doubt I'll ever understand you."
"You don't have to understand me, sir. Once this whole
mess is settled I
doubt we'll ever encounter each other again." Sharpe shook his head.
"We need to work together for the time being, but after that its back to
business as usual."
"Which means you'll go back to thinking of me as a useless
and titled fop
and bristling every time I'm within twenty feet of you." Edrington said,
"Yes sir. And you'll go back to thinking of me as an
ill-disciplined pain in the arse."
Harper laughed at that moment, eyeing the two officers. "God
Ireland, but you two are a pair! A matched set!" He was still laughing,
and it wasn't long before Kennedy joined him.
"If you could only see yourselves at this moment!! You
look like a pair
of gaffed fish, mouths gaping open" He managed to gasp before laughter
overcame him again.
A snort of laughter came from the otherwise silent Owen. Sharpe
Edrington looked at each other and saw identical expressions of shock
mixed with puzzlement.
Then Sharpe smiled, and it wasn't long before the humour of
caught both of them. It was almost irresistible; before another minute
could pass they were all laughing.
"Well" Kennedy said after the hysteria had passed.
"I for one am glad to
see that explosion averted." He looked around at his companions and
spared a smile for the young woman. "But what do we do now? Those
dragoons are still out there; we can't leave here just yet."
Edrington nodded. "We'll stay here tonight. Owen?"
"Sir?" the young man asked.
"You've slept most of the day, so you can take the first watch tonight."
Later that night Edrington sat beside the dying fire. It was
and the others were asleep. He smiled slightly at Kennedy's genteel
snoring, oddly comforted by the homey sound. He looked up and could just
make out a few stars between the leaves of the trees. He sat for a
while, staring upward, watching the smoke of the fire curl up and
disappear into the black night. He was unaware of the passage of time
until a voice spoke beside him.
"Must be fascinating, whatever it is."
It was a measure of the comfort level the two friends had with
that Edrington did not jump at Kennedy's words. He grinned, but did not
alter his gaze. "I'm just thinking." was all he said.
"About home, I'll wager."
"What else? Its strange, but sitting here, like this,
I don't feel so
far away from Sarah and the children."
Kennedy sighed and sat beside his friend, tilting his head
back to gaze
at the sky. "Its because they are looking at the same stars as you. I
used to do this on board ship; just stand and watch the stars. It helped
to know that no matter how far from home I was the stars were always the
same." He grinned and glanced at his friend. "And I've been farther
afield than you, Hal."
"When I was eight years old my grandmother died."
Edrington said, his
voice quiet; almost hushed. "I remember my father telling me that heaven
was where the stars were, and that if I looked up at night I could see my
grandmother, and she would watch over me for the rest of my life." He
laughed; a self-deprecating sound. "Now I'm forty years old and I'm
again staring at the heavens, hoping that my mother is up there watching
"She is." Kennedy replied. "She is if you believe in it."
"That's just it, Archie. I'm not sure if I believe it
Edrington finally took his eyes from the sky and rested his forehead on
his upraised knees. "I'm not sure I believe any of it anymore." He
raised his face; agonized eyes meeting his friend's. "Look at what I am,
Archie! I'm more a soldier than a husband, a father, or even an earl! I
wasn't at home when any of my children were born, and I wasn't there when
my mother died. And for what? For what?" He threw his arms wide as if
to gesture to the entire world. "So that some ambitious bastard like
Harlan could get away with murder and make sure I get dragged down too?
So that my family's name could be tossed on the dungheap and they can all
join in my disgrace? So I could bring others down with me, including
you, my best and oldest friend?"
"If you want out of this, Archie, now's the time to go.
wouldn't hold it against you." He met his friends eyes. "But I would
like for you to stay. I need all the help I can get."
Kennedy nodded briskly. "You won't get rid of me that
fast, Hal." He
looked up at the stars again. "Why do you think this happened? I mean,
what could Harlan's motive possibly be?"
"If I understood that I could deal with everything more
What the hell does Harlan want from all of this? It can't be as simple
as command of the 86th; that's too small a prize for playing such a
"Is it such a dangerous game, Hal?" Kennedy asked.
"Need I remind you
that you have deserted the army? You're already well down a path that
leads to disgrace and ruin. You've done half of Harlan's work for him!"
"I know that, Archie, but I can't just give up now. We're
close to the
truth, I know it! Besides," He took a deep breath. "I can't let
Andrews hang. Of everyone he's probably the most innocent person in this
whole mess. Major Harlan's unwitting pawn, and quite possibly the
instrument of my downfall. I wish...." His voice faded away and his
face grew puzzled; his eyes looking into the distance without seeing.
Kennedy's voice came from a long distance, as Edrington fought
to hold on
to the scrap of memory that his words had conjured up. He was 17 years
old, a fresh-faced ensign newly arrived with the army and seeing the more
brutal aspects of the life he had chosen as demonstrated by his company
commander. "Instrument of my downfall.". His first captain had said
those words, but when, and why? Under what circumstance? And what was
the man's name?
The memory disappeared as fast as it had come, leaving him
wondering just what its significance was.
"Hal? Are you all right?"
Edrington came out of his almost-trance to see his friend's
eyes concerned, peering into his own. He shook his head to dispel the
shadows of a past he scarcely remembered.
"I'm fine, Archie. For a moment I thought I had it, but
"The answer." Kennedy's eyebrows went up. "Oh,
not the whole answer,
but perhaps the key to solving the whole mess." Edrington explained.
"It'll come back, I'm sure of it." He looked about the camp at the
sleeping figures of his partners in crime; the woman was sleeping pressed
against Harper's broad back, as if the giant Irishman provided an extra
shelter. They were all oblivious to the dark thoughts of this darker
night. Even Kennedy, wide awake as he was and knowing more of Edrington
than the others, was an outsider at that moment.
I can't let the others get caught in this, he thought to himself.
matter what. If I go down, I go down alone.
And if the key to the entire situation lay in his past, he
that out himself.