Not For Honour Alone
It was a very subdued pair of brothers that made their way
headquarters tent the following morning. Somehow, word of the dowager
countess's death had spread, and the men of the 86th lined up to offer
silent sympathy as their commander walked by.
Captain William Edrington walked along, his long strides curbed
his brother's slower pace. He kept a close eye on Hal, worried that he
wasn't yet strong enough for the rigors of what he might face. His
brother's face was pale, and his eyes were dull, listless, and
red-rimmed. He looked like a man facing execution himself, rather than a
man trying to save one of his own from that fate.
Colonel Edrington was totally absorbed in the matter at hand.
ruthlessly pushed thoughts of his mother out of his mind so he could give
his attention to making sense of the mess Andrews had fallen into. His
mind was reeling from a combination of exhaustion, the lingering effects
of his fever, and sheer disbelief. But one question kept pushing itself
to the forefront. Why? he asked himself. Why in the name of heaven did
Harlan send Andrews out on guard duty? Andrews, who hadn't held a musket
in nearly two years, let alone fired one. Andrews, who couldn't scare a
child if his life depended on it. Why?
His left boot slipped in a patch of mud, and he staggered,
falling. William caught his brother and held him briefly. His hand
hovered near Edrington's elbow, ready to provide support if needed.
"No, William." Edrington said, some of his old resolve
present in his
voice. "I have to do this."
William caught hold of his brother's arm, halting his forward
"No, you don't." he said, forcibly turning Hal until they stood face to
face. "No, you don't." he repeated. "No one is going to fault you as a
commander if you don't show up for this court martial! For God's sake,
Hal! Our mother..." his voice broke on the final word.
"I know." Edrington said, his voice softening as
he laid a hand on his
brother's where it grasped his arm. "Believe me, I know. But I can't
just turn Andrews over to the wolves. You know that better than
"But what can you do to help?" Edrington opened
his mouth to reply, but
William mercilessly cut him off. "Be honest, Hal! Is there truly
anything you can do?
"I don't know, and I won't know until I get in there and
what the story is." He pointedly looked at William's hand, still
clutching his arm. "So if you'll just let me go...?"
William released his brother's arm, throwing his hands up in
"Fine. Go. Do what you want. But you won't do it alone, not if I have
any say in the matter."
Edrington had turned away from his brother, but William saw
sag and heard his deep sigh.
"Thank you, William. I was hoping you'd say that."
He glanced over his
shoulder and gave his brother a wan smile. "I need all the help I can
William shook his head, laughing slightly in bemusement. "Why
suddenly have a very bad feeling about this?"
Inside the headquarters tent it was damp, and the rank smell
of wet wool
was turning stomachs. The sides of the tent were brailed up, allowing
the chill, moist breeze to blow through. Edrington shivered with each
The tent was actually two that had been cobbled together to
make a space
large enough to hold a court martial in. When Edrington looked up he saw
that the two halves were held in place by strategically placed bayonets,
one of which had slipped slightly and was now hanging loose, point down,
just a foot or so above Wellington's head. The image brought a smile to
The three provost officers, however, were not smiling. They
together, talking in low voices, their dour faces a perfect counterpoint
to the solemnity of the occasion. After all, they were there to pass
judgment on a man's life. There was no place for humour in a task like
"My, my." William muttered. "Aren't they a
happy band of men?" He
glanced at his brother. "Hal?" he asked.
But Edrington was totally absorbed in something else. Two
sergeants had escorted Andrews into the tent.
He was pale except for the red of his healing burns and one
bruise high on his left cheek. His right hand was bandaged and he held
it against his stomach; hunched over slightly as if in pain. When he saw
his commander he turned deathly white and swayed on his feet. He would
have fallen over if his two guards hadn't grabbed him and pushed him into
Their eyes met; Andrews' pleading, Edrington's concerned.
man looked almost frantic; his eyes were wild and a rush of color swept
his cheeks as he sat there. He shook his head slightly, rolling his eyes
toward the table where the provost officers sat.
Edrington sat dumbfounded, trying to figure out what Andrews
to say with his facial contortions. He was totally unaware of what was
going on around him.
He felt a sharp stab in the ribs and turned toward his brother.
gave him a harsh look, then nodded his head toward Wellington.
"For pity's sake, Hal. At least pretend to pay attention."
mumbled out of the corner of his mouth.
"Colonel Edrington?" Wellington asked.
"Sir?" Another sharp poke in the side. "I
mean, my lord?" He gave
William a hateful look.
"It really was not necessary for you to be here today,
Colonel. But I
would like to take this opportunity to extend to you my condolences on
the death of your mother. She was a fine woman."
"Thank you, my lord." He could think of nothing else to say.
Wellington gave him a concerned look. "Are you sure you're
feeling up to
this, Colonel? Frankly, you look as if a stiff wind could knock you
flat, let alone a musket ball."
"Thank you for your concern, my lord, but I'll be fine."
"I'd be a poor sort of commander if I didn't care enough about my men to
see this through." he continued, glancing at Andrews as he did so.
The younger man smiled slightly, then his face went slack with
Edrington turned to the entrance of the tent. Captain Sharpe had
His scarred face was set in grim and determined lines, and
he looked as
if he hadn't slept in days. He saluted the senior officers present,
glared at Andrews, and pointedly ignored Edrington. When he took a seat
toward the rear of the tent an almost palpable shudder of relief passed
through the assembled officers.
"The specter at the feast." William muttered under his breath.
"Shhhhh!" Edrington hushed his brother, but he couldn't
slightly at the image. Captain Sharpe was indeed the specter, lending a
gloomy quality to an already less-than-cheerful situation. He could
almost feel the hair on the nape of his neck stand up in response to
Wellington had acknowledged the arrival with a curt nod. "Very
said. "Lets get this started. Major Hawkins?"
One of the provost officers stood. Major Hawkins was a tall,
gentlemen with an unusually high pitched voice. Despite his senior
position on the provost marshall's staff, he was a figure of ridicule and
derision throughout the entire army.
"My lord" he began. "We respectfully request
additional time to inquire
further into this matter. It is the opinion of all of us"; he waved to
indicate the other provosts; "That this entire trial has been rushed
beyond ordinary standards. It would not be fair to Private Andrews if we
were to proceed in this fashion."
Edrington stifled his sigh of relief. More time was exactly
needed. Time to discover exactly what had happened, and why.
Wellington sighed loudly. "I trust, Major," he said
dryly, "That you
have not forgotten that we are fighting a war? That Napoleon's army is
breathing down our necks even as we speak?"
Hawkins shook his head. "Of course not, my lord!"
"Then where, praytell, do you expect to find the time'
further into this matter?"
Hawkins blushed furiously. He stammered a few words about
justice and the good of all men before his speech ground to a halt.
Edrington stood. "My lord, if I may?"
"Yes, Colonel. What is it?"
"I believe Major Hawkins is correct." Edrington
indicated the provosts
with a nod of his head. "This whole matter has been rushed to trial,
without adequate time to prepare." He smiled slightly. "I would hate to
think that your lordship was less interested in upholding the standards
of British law than you are in simply defeating the French."
His voice was smooth, but with an undercurrent of contempt
to it that
Wellington did not fail to hear. The general flushed in anger and
clenched his jaw.
Edrington gave one final verbal jab. "And if we're not
uphold British law and standards, then what are we fighting for?"
"Your point is well taken, Colonel Edrington." Wellington
his clenched teeth. He glanced toward the provost officers. "Major
Hawkins, you and your colleagues have an additional week to prepare your
case." He stood to leave.
"NO!" a voice shouted from the rear of the tent.
Everyone spun to confront the sound. Sharpe was on his feet,
clenched and his face blanched.
"What about justice for the man who was killed?"
he said harshly. "Do
none of you care about that? Is he to be faulted for the fact that his
officer isn't an earl?"
His eyes met Edrington's for the first time since he had arrived.
were icy with his anger and contempt. Edrington shivered in reaction,
but was unable to look away.
"Captain Sharpe..." Wellington began.
"One of my men is dead!" Sharpe shouted. "A
man who had survived every
battle of this past year, only to be killed by a..." He ran out of
words, and could only gesture mutely at Andrews. "I want justice for
him, just as surely as Lord Edrington wants justice for his man." He
looked around at the assembly. "Is that too much to ask?"
The disgust in his voice cut like a knife. Edrington felt
a blush climb
his cheeks and he bowed his head, unwilling to confront Sharpe's gaze any
further. The buzz of voices in the tent roared in his ears.
"Very well, Captain." Wellington shouted to be heard
above the din.
"Your honourable ideals have been noted. You shall have justice for
Dobbs, and Colonel Edrington shall have justice for Andrews." He glanced
from one to the other of them. "You will both discover that justice for
yourselves. I am assigning the two of you to investigate this matter and
find me some answers."
Sharpe opened his mouth to protest.
"That is an order!" Wellington said in a quiet voice
carried the full weight of his authority. "As of this moment you and
Colonel Edrington are in charge of these proceedings. Major Hawkins?"
"Arrange matters with the provost marshal. Effective
immediately he has
two new staff officers." And with those words he strode out of the tent.
The bayonet that had been hanging above his head chose that
slip completely free of its canvas confinement and dropped to the ground.
Edrington and Sharpe watched him leave, dumbfounded.
"Well!" William broke the stunned silence. "War
certainly does make for