Not For Honour Alone, part 23
"Major Hawkins! Colonel Edrington, Captain Sharpe, and Sergeants Owen
and Harper are to be taken in custody immediately!" Wellington's voice
boomed across the camp and four provost officers leapt to do his bidding.
As Edrington slid from the saddle the general caught a glimpse
young woman who had been mounted behind him. Wellington bit back the
impulse to shout at his colonel, however. The provost officers came
forward and escorted the four men away.
Kennedy watched as his companions were led off, surrounded
muskets. He slid off his horse then went to help Antonia down. She
shrank back from Wellington's approach, but Kennedy smiled encouragement
to her and she stepped forward and curtsied to the general.
"Mister Kennedy." Wellington growled, "Dare
I ask who this young lady is
and what she's doing here?"
"She's the daughter of the innkeeper in the last village
through, my lord. Its rather a long story but I do believe you'll be
interested in what she has to say."
Wellington raised his eyebrows. "Oh you do, do you?"
He looked at
Antonia. "Does she speak any English?"
"Not that we found, sir." Kennedy replied.
"Very well then." Wellington turned to his adjutant.
"Adler, send a
message to the Provost Marshal to report to me immediately." He glanced
again at the young woman. "And find me an interpreter." He stepped
aside and gestured Antonia to precede him to the headquarters tent.
She glanced uncertainly from the tent to Wellington, then met
eyes. He nodded and smiled, and she walked away. Kennedy let out the
breath he had been holding. He smiled sheepishly at the general.
"I was afraid she wouldn't be willing to speak. Its one
thing to tell
her story to just a few people, quite another to make it publicly known,
and on the record."
"What exactly is her story, Mister Kennedy?" Wellington
held up a hand.
"I know, I know. It'd be better to hear it from her own lips, but give
me the short version, if you would."
Kennedy sighed. "The short version? Her name is Antonia,
betrothed, very much against her will, to the son of the village
blacksmith. She overheard a conversation between a British officer and
her fiancee, and she knows for a fact that her fiancee did the job of
altering the musket that Andrews carried that night."
"So that's it! I know Edrington believed he'd find proof
of that, but I
never honestly thought he'd succeed." Wellington shook his head and
smiled. "I'll never understand that man. Just when you think he's
finally beat, he turns around and fights even harder. A constant
"So why is he under arrest?"
"Desertion is desertion, Mister Kennedy. You know that.
As much as I
may wish to, I cannot ignore that simple fact."
"No sir. Nor should you." Kennedy hesitated. "But..."
"I'll see this mess straightened out. You can count on that."
Kennedy looked into the general's distinctive hook-nosed face
and felt a
shiver chase down his spine at the implacable resolve he saw there. And
yet at the same time he felt oddly hopeful, and in that moment he
recognized what made Wellington a great leader of men. It was his simple
respect for anyone who served under his command, no matter how lowly his
origins. In keeping his word and arresting the Earl of Edrington for
desertion he showed that justice was for all his soldiers.
Edrington, however, was not feeling so kindly towards his commanding
officer. They had been escorted to a tent near the one where Andrews was
being held and left there to stew. Not one word had been spoke to any of
the four of them.
Once their guards had taken up station outside Sharpe began
Back and forth across the narrow span of the tent, covering the distance
in just four strides. With each step he seemed to grow angrier, although
he held his tongue. Owen ducked into a corner and kept himself as out of
the way as possible, but Harper had no such fear of his captain.
"Sir." he said quietly. "Beggin' your pardon,
sir, but if you keep this
up in another hour you'll strike water."
"Shut up, Pat!" Sharpe snarled at his sergeant.
"Sharpe!" Edrington said angrily. "There's
no call for that. We all
knew that we'd end up like this, and I think it would be best if we all
dealt with it." He looked around at the others. "In silence."
Sharpe ceased his pacing and stormed over to Edrington. "In
What the hell do you know about dealing with anything in silence', my
lord?" he raged, all but spitting the last words into Edrington's face.
"Your silence condemns us to this! You could have spoken; the general
would have listened to you. Instead we have to wait, watch and see." He
spat on the ground, the gob landing just inches away from Edrington's
gleaming black boot. "That's your silence, my lord."
Edrington bristled. "Captain Sharpe" he said in
a voice barely above a
whisper, "I tolerated your insubordination and contempt before simply
because I needed your help if I was to succeed. But now we are back with
the army, and regular discipline holds. I am still your superior officer
and I expect to treated with the respect you have yet to show me. Is
"Why should I?" Sharpe asked rebelliously. "Why
should I show you any
respect? You have yet to earn it, sir. You needed my help so you could
succeed at proving Andrews innocent of intentional wrongdoing, but what
about Dobbs? What about the man I lost? You've denied it every single
time, but you don't give a good God damn about him, do you? As long as
high and mighty Colonel Lord Edrington gets the justice he wants the rest
can go hang! Respect??" he snarled. "I'll show you respect!"
Edrington was so surprised by the vehemence of Sharpe's words
never saw the punch coming. Sharpe's fist cracked across the side of his
face and sent him staggering. He could taste blood in his mouth as he
regained his balance and confronted the captain. They stood toe to toe
and eye to eye. Edrington held one hand to his cheek where a bruise was
already starting to form.
"Is this what you want, Captain?" he asked, quietly.
"Yes, God damnit!" Sharpe roared before he swung at the colonel again.
Edrington ducked under the punch and took a step back. He
held up a hand
to halt Harper and Owen, both of whom had moved to stop the fight before
it could really begin.
"No." he said. "It seems that, for whatever
reason, Captain Sharpe needs
to attempt to beat me bloody. I'd like to give him the opportunity." he
concluded, a chill smile on his face.
"I'll do more than attempt, you smug bastard!" Sharpe
off his sword belt and jacket. "I'll grind you into bloody offal."
Edrington calmly unbuckled his sword belt and laid it neatly
placing his carefully folded uniform jacket on top of it. He stood with
arms outstretched, inviting Sharpe to come at him.
"Well, Mister Sharpe?" he asked when the other man
hesitated. "Take your
chance now. I can guarantee you won't get another."
With an incoherent bellow of rage Sharpe charged. Edrington
neatly aside and behind his opponent. When Sharpe turned back to face
him the colonel caught him with a neat jab. Blood spurted from his nose
and Sharpe stumbled back. A swift left hook sent him pitching out of the
Edrington quickly followed and ordered their guards back.
They were so
stunned that they automatically obeyed the voice of command, falling back
a few paces and forming a small square with Sharpe at its center.
"Do you still want to fight me, Captain?" Edrington
asked, his voice as
calm as ever.
Sharpe wiped the blood from his nose and gave a curt nod.
less than what you deserve, sir." he growled, the last word dripping with
He charged toward his superior officer again, but Edrington
ground and delivered a hard punch to Sharpe's stomach. The captain bent
double, gasping for breath. Edrington took a step closer, and in the
blink of an eye Sharpe straightened and caught Edrington squarely on the
jaw. His lip split and began to bleed. He raised one hand to his mouth
and very nearly missed the motion as Sharpe attempted to kick his legs
out from under him. He caught Sharpe's leg and held him for a moment.
Then, with a burst of strength he scarcely knew he had, he twisted the
captain's leg and sent him sprawling face down in the mud.
Edrington planted one boot in the center of Sharpe's back,
enough pressure to keep him down. "You see, Captain?" he said a little
breathlessly. "One can learn more on the playing fields of Eaton than
cricket. Perhaps you should learn the difference between fighting and
boxing. I box." He lifted his foot and allowed Sharpe to turn over.
"Sergeant Owen!" he called.
Owen appeared at the tent flap, his face nervous. Harper was
"S... Sir?" he asked.
Edrington looked down at Sharpe. "Could you please attend
Sharpe's more-than-likely broken nose?"
Sharpe grunted and sat up, gingerly touching one finger to
swollen nose. "Fair enough, sir." he said, quietly so that only
Edrington could hear him. "You win, my lord."
Edrington held out a hand and assisted Sharpe to his feet.
do, Captain." he said with a hint of arrogance. "But I promise you that
I'll win the bigger fight for both Andrews and Dobbs."
"You'll have an opportunity sooner than you think."
another voice chimed
"Archie!" Edrington turned to his friend. "Did
Wellington speak to
"He did." Kennedy replied. He looked from Edrington's
bloody lip to
Sharpe's bleeding and purple nose. "He's calling a hearing tomorrow at
10 in the morning. And..." He met their eyes in turn.
"Major Harlan is ordered to attend."