by Clio

Part 7

Outside the tent Edrington paused for a moment to catch his breath and
attempt to assimilate what had happened. He had gotten what he wanted -
more time to look into Andrews' case - but at what cost? Working with
Sharpe? It was madness! He shook his head slightly, convinced that
everything had finally gotten to Wellington, and the man had snapped.

"If you think I'm going to go along with this, you are out of your mind."
a quiet and angry voice said behind him.

Edrington whirled and confronted Captain Sharpe's icy cold stare. At
close quarters he noticed things about the other man that hadn't been
apparent before. He had a scar on his right cheek, running from just
above his jaw to just under his eye. It made his expression slightly
menacing. A good match for the cold and hard ice-blue eyes.

But despite his weakness from fever and the roiling emotions regarding
his mother's death, Edrington was not about to back down to any man.

"If you recall, Captain" he said. "We were ordered to do this. I would
suggest that the sooner we get on with it, the sooner we can finish and
then go back to our regular duties." And he turned and started to walk

He hadn't gotten three steps away before Sharpe was at his side.

"Where do you think you're going?" Sharpe asked.

"To talk to Andrews. He deserves to have his side of the whole sordid
mess known, wouldn't you agree?" Edrington could not keep the anger and
disgust out of his voice.

"Well, you're not going without me."

Edrington smiled slightly and glance sideways at his companion. For the
first time he noticed that the two of them were the same height; they
stood eye to eye.

"Does this mean that you're willing to take part in this after all,
Captain?" Edrington asked, with just the slightest of emphasis on the

Sharpe halted. "No, it doesn't mean that I'm willing. But if you're
going to talk to that bastard you call an orderly, I have every intention
of being there."

Edrington stiffened at Sharpe's words. It was bad enough to use language
like that in general, but to speak to a superior officer that way? It
was almost unheard of. He halted and turned to face Sharpe. Reining in
his anger, he spoke quietly.

"Captain" he began. "I don't know what sort of attitude your commanding
officer has toward his men, but let me make one thing perfectly clear to
you. None of my men are bastards'. None of my men are the scum of the
earth'. I care about each and every one of them. And I don't care what
it means to my honour or my reputation, I'm going to do what I can to
help Andrews. You can either be a part of this to ensure that you get
justice for your man, Dobbs, or you can fight me every step of the way
and still be dissatisfied with the outcome. It makes no difference to
me. I'm going." And he stood and waited for a response.

Sharpe had the good grace to look abashed, but he didn't apologize for
his harsh words. Edrington waited a bit longer to give his words a
chance to sink in.

"I am sorry about Dobbs' death." he said, before turning and walking

He didn't go far before he heard steps behind him. He slowed his pace
slightly, and Sharpe drew abreast. They walked in silence for a moment
before Sharpe finally spoke.

"I'm sorry about you mother, sir." he said, his awkwardness with
condolences making the words sharp.

Had the man sprouted horns and hooves Edrington could not have been more
surprised. "You know about that?" he asked.

"I heard." Sharpe said. "Everyone heard. Its the main topic of
discussion, not counting..." His words ground to a halt, and he blushed

"Not counting...?" Edrington prompted. When he received no response he
filled in the blanks himself. "Let me guess. Not counting Dobbs' death,
Andrews' trial, and my having been ill and delirious with fever while
everything was happening." He shook his head before glancing at his
companion. "The power of army gossip."

Sharpe looked down at his feet, but not fast enough to hide his slight
smile. "Yes, sir." was all he said.

"Humph." was the only response.

They made their way to the tent where Andrews was being held, each caught
up in his own thoughts. Although the silence could not be described as
comfortable, it was at least lacking the tension that had existed between
them before.

Four men from the provost marshall's division were on guard outside the
tent. Edrington had to smile at the sight. Do those idiots honestly
believe that Andrews represents a high escape risk? he asked himself.
They certainly do not know their man.

They did, however, know their job. As Edrington and Sharpe approached
two of the men moved to block the entrance to the tent; their muskets
held in relaxed, but steady, hands.

"Sorry, sirs, but no one's allowed..." the corporal began before stopping
and taking a closer look at the two officers confronting him. Edrington,
pale and wan, looking as if a stiff wind would topple him, arm held
gingerly against his side; Sharpe, sullen and uncomfortable, with anger
simmering just below the surface. Something must have connected in the
corporal's mind, for he waved his men aside.

"You can go in, sirs." he said with a salute.

Sharpe merely grunted in response. Edrington returned the salute before
ducking under the flap and entering the tent.

Andrews was lying on the camp bed, hands clasped beneath his head and
eyes staring blankly at the canvas above him. He seemed unaware of their
presence, so Edrington took a moment to look objectively at his orderly.
Without the red jacket of his uniform he seemed smaller and frailer;
lacking in any sort of confidence. His pale face made a startling
contrast to his dark hair.

Edrington coughed once, quietly. Andrews snapped out of his trance and
jumped to his feet.

"My lord, I..."

"At ease, Andrews. This is not a formal visit." Edrington sat on the
one camp stool and waved the private back to his seat on the bed.
Andrews slowly sat down, his eyes, surprisingly, glued to Sharpe's face.
Sharpe returned the stare until Andrews backed down and lowered his eyes
to the ground beneath his feet.

Edrington had not failed to notice the by-play between them. In fact, he
would have been surprised if there had been no reaction to their being
brought into close proximity. Sharpe looked as if he was carved from
granite; not one trace of emotion showed on his face. Andrews sat
slumped on the bed, his shoulders rising gently with each breath, shame
written in every angle of his body.

"Andrews..." Edrington began.

The orderly's head snapped up, and his eyes met his colonel's. He shook
his head once.

"Don't try and help me, sir." he said. "Its too late for me." he
continued, his voice rising with his agitation. "I can't fight this, and
neither can you. Get out of this while you still can!" He all but
shouted the last words.

"Can't fight what?" Edrington asked. He stood up and took a step closer
to the cot, but Andrews shrunk away.

"NO!" he shouted. "Don't! Just leave me alone and let me die!" And he
turned his back to the officers and slumped on the bed .

"Andrews..." Edrington began.

The only response was a muffled sob from the bed. Andrews' shoulders
shuddered slightly.

"Andrews, you should know by know that I never abandon my men. Never.
Not for any man, or for any thing." Edrington stated. "I will find out
what happened and I will see justice done. You can count on that." And
with those final words he turned and strode from the tent.

Sharpe hesitated a moment before following the colonel out. He was
unsure of what had just happened, exactly, but it seemed obvious to him
that Andrews didn't give a damn about what happened to him. Which was
strange. Why was he so reluctant to have the truth known and the matter
resolved? Why was he refusing to have anything to do with finding out
more about the accident? Was he protecting someone else? Someone who
would be hurt more than Andrews himself, despite his pending death?


Sharpe stared intently at Edrington; standing a few feet away with head
bowed and shoulders slumped. He had seen for himself how the men of the
86th cared for their commander. It was plain in all of Sergeant Owen's
actions, and now it seemed that Andrews was willing to sacrifice himself
for.... What? What could possibly be so important that a young man
would be willing to die rather than have it be known. Was there more to
Colonel Lord Henry Edrington than met the eye?

"What is it about this picture that bothers me?"

Sharpe nearly jumped out of his skin at the words, spoken so quietly in
his ear. He turned a furious face on Harper, but as usual the Irishman
was unflappable.

"Do you have something you wish to ask me, Sergeant?" Sharpe asked, a
hint of menace in his voice.

"No, not a thing." Harper responded. "However, beggin' your pardon sir,
I can't say that I like the way you were studying his lordship just now.
The cat and the canary, if you take my meaning, sir."

Sharpe snorted in disgust and turned his back. He walked a slight
distance away, Harper at his side. When he spoke there was no anger in
his voice, but his tone nonetheless sent a small shiver up the sergeant's

"Pat" he began. "I need you to find out everything you can Lord
Edrington. And I mean everything. I want to know his mother's maiden
name. I want to know what colour Lady Edrington's hair is. I want to
know his children's birthdays. Whatever you can discover. And I want
this kept strictly between us, understand?"

Harper was puzzled, but he kept the questions to himself. He knew his
officer well enough to know that he would have another, better, chance to
ask why. He was a patient man, and could wait.

"There's something strange going on here, Pat." Sharpe continued.
"Almost bizarre. I wish..."

Sharpe grunted as Harper elbowed him in the ribs. He spun around and saw
Edrington approaching, Sergeant Owen a step behind him. The slump was
gone from his shoulders now, and the two faced each other squarely.

"Captain Sharpe, I wanted to thank you for holding your peace while we
were with Private Andrews. I know its difficult, since you obviously
cared about your man, Dobbs. I wanted you to know that it did not go
unnoticed." He nodded once to Harper, turned and began to walk away.


Edrington turned and raised one eyebrow in a question.

Sharpe hesitated a moment, unsure of how freely he should speak. "I
still don't like this one bit, sir. But I'll do my part to find out the
truth. You can count on that." he concluded, a slight smile playing at
the corners of his mouth.

Harper shot his captain a look of alarm. He was thoroughly unnerved by
the smile on Sharpe's face. He knew that look all too well, and he sent
a silent prayer heavenward that Sharpe's feelings would not lead him down
the wrong path this time.

Edrington took a step forward and the two men shook hands, sealing their

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