Not For Honour Alone, part 24
The night dragged by, each hour seemingly longer than the last. His
cohorts all slept, but Edrington could not relax. He paced for a while,
but eventually stopped when Sharpe threatened to give him the pounding
her had missed out on that afternoon. Ruefully acknowledging the truth
of that (and rubbing his aching jaw) he had sat on the end of his cot,
gazing out at the clear, starry night.
In truth he was nervous about the next day. If he had learned
from the events of the past few weeks it was that Major Harlan was a
thoroughly unscrupulous character; one who would stop at next to nothing
to gain his ends. But he was still puzzled by the seeming lack of motive
in the whole mess. Why the devil was Harlan expending so much time and
energy in his efforts? It was madness.
Even as he thought that a memory teased the corner of his mind.
He was a
young man, standing before his commanding officer. He was upset; crying
even. But over what? Or who?
"Its a type of madness, lad." His commander's voice
came back to him.
"No knowing what might set him off." A kindly hand rested on his
shoulder. "You played no part in it; you bear no fault."
Edrington shook himself free of the memory, shivering in the
air. It had been so vivid, yet he could not recall what had caused such
intense emotion on his part. What could have been so bad that his
commander had felt the need to comfort him like a father? What was it?
He tried to recapture the moment again, but his mind was a
He fell asleep just as the first pearly grey light of dawn was visible,
and dreamt of Sarah, and home.
The hearing did not convene sharply at ten. Major Hawkins,
in charge of
proceedings, was late in arriving, and in a state of disarray when he
did. The other two provost officers on the panel were unable to offer
any assistance; they had been excluded from matters the previous evening.
The young Spanish woman Antonia had entered the tent in Hawkins'
She was obviously frightened by the large group of people gathered there,
but she kept her head up and refused to look cowed. Major Valverde, one
of the Spanish army liaison officers, sat beside her, prepared to act as
Edrington had watched her entrance, giving her a small smile
She returned it wanly, then suddenly turned pale. Her eyes widened as
she stared beyond Edrington to the tent's entrance.
Edrington turned and met Major Harlan's gaze. He nearly flinched
the malevolence in the major's eyes. His breath caught in his throat,
and he again wondered just what was behind the whole mess.
His spirits rose at the sight of his brother arriving. He
stood to greet
William and was enfolded in a warm embrace.
"Good God, Hal!" William said when he had released
his brother. "You
certainly know how to make a scene!" he smiled. "Only my brother would
turn a simple court martial into a circus like this."
Edrington had little time for his brother's comments; he was
staring at the officer who had accompanied William.
"Langdon?" he asked, puzzlement filling his voice.
"What are you doing
here?" He looked from the Cornishman to his brother. "And in company
with my brother?"
William blushed slightly. "You could say that Langdon
and I have forged
an alliance, Hal."
"An alliance? What for?" Edrington asked, trepidation
"We've found the missing pieces, sir." Langdon said,
leaning forward so
the three of them formed a small circle of confidence. Then he proceeded
to outline the entire story as he had discovered it.
As each word flowed from Langdon's tongue Edrington felt pieces
return. Captain Richard Harlan, a large brute of an officer, ruling the
company with threats and intimidation, and Private Harold Andrews,
scarcely older than himself....
The final image finally clicked into place. Ensign Edrington,
his disgust at the captain's methods, had dared to go to their commanding
officer in hopes of stopping the mistreatment that was meted out on a
regular basis. Captain Harlan discovered who it was who had reported
him, but rather than beat the seventeen year old earl bloody he had
chosen Harold Andrews as a target instead.
But Andrews had not survived the beating. And Captain Harlan
resigned in disgrace rather than face a court martial on charges of
The blood drained from his face. William grabbed his shoulder,
that his brother would faint dead away.
"Hal? Are you all right?"
William's voice came from far away as Edrington stared across
the tent at
Major Harlan. Some sixth sense caused him to turn his head and meet his
colonel's eyes. Again the hatred there almost made Edrington shrink
away. But he held Harlan's gaze, letting his own loathing of the man
come through in his eyes and expression. Harlan dropped his eyes first.
"How could I have been so blind?" he whispered.
"I never saw it.
Never!" He shook his head. "If I had only paid better attention...."
"Don't start in with that, Hal. You have the most annoying
making everything your fault. You can't change what happened, but you
can make sure Harlan doesn't get away with it." William said.
"He won't have to." Langdon spoke. He nodded toward
the entrance where
Andrews stood, flanked by his guards. "I think someone else may wish to
They watched as Andrews took his seat. He had given Edrington
tiniest of smiles, nodded to Captain Langdon and steadfastly avoided
looking at Major Harlan. He looked pale, yet determined. Whatever shame
he may have felt over the part he had played in Harlan's shenanigans
seemed to have faded; he was there to tell the truth.
"Very well, Major Hawkins. It seems that all the major
players are here.
You may proceed." Wellington's voice pierced the silence that had
descended on the gathering.
Hawkins cleared his throat nervously and shuffled papers on
He was uncertain as to how to proceed, that much was obvious. Valverde
poked him in the back and the two carried on a hasty, whispered
"Major Hawkins?" Wellington's voice was tinged with impatience.
"My lord." Hawkins spoke at last. "I think
it would be best if we simply
allowed this young lady to tell her story." And he gestured to Antonia.
Antonia stood and clasped her hands tightly together to hide
trembling. In a low and measured voice she told the court what she knew,
waiting patiently as each sentence was painstakingly translated by
Valverde. When she described the officer she had seen speaking to her
betrothed all eyes had drifted to Major Harlan, who squirmed in his seat.
"Did you actually see your fiancee make the alterations
to the musket?"
Major Hawkins asked.
Antonia nodded. "Sí, hice." she said, loud
enough to be heard by the
"And is the British officer you saw present here today?"
Again she nodded. "Yes." was the only word of English
that passed her
lips. She turned slowly until she faced Harlan and pointed at him.
Edrington's breath escaped him in a deep sigh. They had gambled
bringing Antonia with them, and it seemed that they had won. He turned
and saw Sharpe, Harper and Kennedy standing near the tent flap. Kennedy
and Harper were trying to stifle grins, and even Sharpe looked happier
than he had been for days. He nodded to Edrington and allowed a small,
satisfied smile to cross his features.
"My lord, this is ridiculous! I must protest!"
Harlan had leapt to his
feet and was shouting over the mumble of voices reacting to Antonia's
testimony. "That you would even consider taking the word of a... a..."
He gestured at the girl, at a loss for words. "That you would take her
word over that of one of your officers is not to be believed!"
Wellington sat, his fingers steepled together. "That
is where you are
wrong, Major." he said, making the rank sound like an insult. "I'm not
taking just her word. I myself had an interesting conversation with
Private Andrews last night, in company with Major Hawkins." Harlan went
pale. "I would say that you have a considerable amount of explaining to
do, Major." The general looked at Andrews. "You're released from
custody, Private. And all charges against Colonel Edrington, Captain
Sharpe and Sergeants Harper and Owen are to be dropped." He gazed out at
the sea of stunned faces, catching Edrington's eye and smiling. "This
proceeding is concluded. Dismissed."
Noise erupted on one side of the tent as Major Harlan fought
the provost officers that had closed in on him and made a break for the
exit. He knocked chairs aside in his rush to get away.
"STOP HIM!" Wellington's voice roared.
There was a scuffle near the tent entrance as a group of men
halt Harlan's panicked flight. But the major was possessed with the need
to make his escape. A few deftly placed blows broke apart the ring
Edrington arrived in time to help Kennedy to his feet. Even
watched one of his friend's eyes started to swell shut.
"Are you all right, Archie?" he asked.
"Yes, damnit!" Kennedy replied. "But I think
he grabbed a pistol from
one of these men."
Edrington didn't wait to hear more. He raced out into the
Harlan, his heart beating so rapidly he expected it to leap from his
chest. He could hear the footsteps of other men behind him but he had no
thought for anything but ensuring that Harlan was made to face justice
for all that he had done.
He sprinted around the large tent that acted as the officer's
skidded to a stop, his boots digging troughs in the turf. Harlan stood
there, a pistol pointed at Edrington's chest.