Not For Honour Alone, part 8
"So, what happened?"
Edrington cringed inwardly at the sound of his brother's voice.
leaving Andrews he had sat in his tent, trying to make some sense of all
the thoughts spinning in his head. Worry about what had happened to his
orderly had gotten mixed in with grief for his mother, frustration at his
continuing weakness, and a sudden, profound homesickness. He was sitting
in his shirtsleeves, staring at Sarah's letter, longing for the sound of
her voice and the laughter of their children when William interrupted
With a sigh Edrington turned to face his brother. "I'm
sorry, I was a
bit lost." he said with a slight smile. "What did you ask?"
"I was wondering what happened after you left the court
William chuckled. "Sharpe certainly chased after you fast enough."
Edrington merely grunted.
William sat down and then stretched out on the camp bed. "So....?"
asked, an expectant note in his voice.
Edrington studied his brother where he lounged on the bed,
about the path William's life had taken. He had rejoiced when his young,
flighty, and somewhat irresponsible brother had fallen in love with Annie
Kennedy. Her down-to-earth common sense was exactly what William needed.
But her sudden death in 1803, while giving birth to their twin
daughters, had devastated William. He was not as strong as he sometimes
thought. Without conscious thought Edrington decided to shield William
as much as he could from the current situation.
"So....... Nothing." he said. "I spoke to
Andrews; he spoke to me.
Sharpe didn't speak at all." He glanced sideways at his brother. "Does
that satisfy your curiosity?"
William sighed and stood up. "Not by any stretch of the
I suppose that's all I'm going to get out of you." He reached out with
one hand and mussed his brother's curly hair. "You know where to find me
if you need help." he said as he left the tent.
Edrington waited until his brother's steps had receded before
smoothed his hair down, stood and went to the tent's entrance. He looked
out and was surprised at what he did not see. Sergeant Owen was nowhere
to be found.
Edrington started and turned toward the voice. Momentary surprise
"Major." he replied, nodding slightly. "Is
there something I can do for
you?" he continued, barely suppressing the dislike in his voice.
Harlan blushed slightly, but he met his colonel's eyes squarely.
simply wondering, sir, what happened at the court martial hearing this
Edrington raised one eyebrow and gave Major Harlan a skeptical
"Why do I find it hard to believe that you have no idea? Surely word has
spread throughout the entire army by this time!"
Harlan blinked once. "My lord, truly, I don't..."
Edrington held up one hand and Harlan's words ground to a halt.
a step closer to the older man and spoke in a hushed tone. "I don't
believe you, Major. I believe that you know every single detail of what
happened this morning, just as I believe that you knew something like
this would happen when you assigned Andrews to that patrol." His dislike
for Harlan leaked into his voice, hardening it. "I'll be content with
simply proving that Andrews wasn't negligent in this accident, but if I
find any - and I mean ANY - proof that you had a hand in setting this up,
I'll have you stripped of your rank and drummed out of this army so fast
you won't have time to blink. Am I making myself perfectly clear, MAJOR
Harlan drew himself up to his full height, which still fell
inches short of his commander. The chill in his voice would have frozen
almost any man, but Edrington was to angry to care.
"I understand you, sir." Harlan said "I understand you perfectly."
"You're dismissed, Major Harlan." Edrington said
before turning his back
on the other man and returning to the tent.
Harlan stood for a moment, too stunned by the curt dismissal
Finally he whirled and strode off, head down and steps angry. He plowed
right into Sergeant Owen, knocking the younger man down, but he didn't
Owen stayed on the ground briefly, watching as Major Harlan
He looked back in the direction from which the officer had come, and his
eyes immediately went to the commander's tent. Seeing that it wasn't too
difficult to figure out why Harlan was so angry. He stood, knocked most
of the dirt from his uniform, and made his way to the tent.
When he looked between the flaps Edrington was standing near
head bent and one hand massaging his neck. As Owen watched, he let out a
gusty sigh, straightened up, and sat down. He looked up and started when
he spotted Owen.
"Damnit! Didn't your mother ever teach you its bad form
to sneak up on
people like that?"
Owen grinned and stepped into the tent. "Sorry, sir.
I didn't mean to
startle you like that." He turned serious. "Beggin' your pardon, sir,
and if I'm overstepping just tell me, but what was Major Harlan in such a
huff about just now?"
"You saw him?" Edrington asked.
"You could say that." Owen replied, ruefully rubbing
his backside. "He
certainly didn't see me. Knocked me flat."
Edrington smiled wolfishly. "I'm not surprised. He was
He paused, searching for the right word to convey his own feelings on the
matter. "Let's say he was perturbed and leave it at that, shall we?"
"Yes sir." Owen said. He was silent for a time;
looking speculatively at
his commander. Finally he spoke again.
"Sir" he began. "Do you think that Major Harlan
somehow deliberately set
this up?" Edrington raised an eyebrow. "I mean, do you think he
purposely tried to get Andrews court martialed?"
"What makes you ask that?"
"Well...." Owen hesitated to speak further.
"Oh for pity's sake! Sit down, Owen!" Edrington ordered,
waving a hand
toward the other camp stool. "You obviously have something to say that
you think I want to hear, so get on with it."
Owen blushed, but forged ahead. "We've been talking,
sergeants. There's not a one of us that believes this thing was an
accident. And frankly sir, Major Harlan is about as well liked amongst
the men as the pox. Begging your pardon, sir."
Edrington had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at Owen's
of Harlan's popularity. It was astonishingly accurate; he knew that from
his own observations.
"Well, pox or no, why does everyone think what you said?
reason could Major Harlan have for destroying a young man that he barely
knows, and wouldn't give a fig about even if he did?" He held up a hand
as Owen started to speak, forestalling him. "I'm not disagreeing with
you, because I have my own beliefs about it, but the question remains.
Owen shook his head. "Its not about Andrews. Its about you."
Owen rolled his eyes. "Yes. You. Surely you can't be
so blind, sir!
Major Harlan has been trying to get to you ever since you took command of
the battalion. He certainly wasn't going to let such a God-given
opportunity as your illness slip through his fingers." He snorted in
disgust. "And all the better to hurt you, and damage your reputation,
through a soldier that you obviously care about. If you'll excuse me
speaking so bluntly, sir, you need to wake up. Major Harlan wants you
gone, he wants command, and he's not above dirty tricks to get what he
wants." he concluded with an emphatic nod.
Edrington shook his head in denial, despite the fact that
mirrored his own instincts about what had brought this about. It was,
quite simply, incomprehensible to him that any man could behave as Major
Harlan did. In his mind a man so devoid of honour was hardly deserving
of the name, and his instincts, honed by generations of service to the
crown, recoiled from such an idea, even as they more they halfway
"It just makes no sense! What could he possibly hope
to gain by any of
this? Nobody is going to believe that I sent Andrews on that patrol,
thereby indirectly causing Dobbs' death. The entire army knows I was ill
at the time!"
Owen smiled a little sadly. "Colonel, you're a grand
man and a good
commander, but somewhat innocent. Harlan doesn't care if God and all his
angels know you were ill at the time; it doesn't matter. What he wants
is to embarrass and disgrace you enough so that you'll leave on your own.
He has no need to publicly disgrace you or get you court martialed;
better to do it through a young man whose fate you care about. And
putting yourself in the position of investigating this matter doesn't
exactly help, if you understand my meaning."
Edrington blushed a fierce red and dropped his eyes to the
pushed a hand through his hair before responding. "I walked right into
that, didn't I?" He slammed a fist on the desk, stood, and began to pace
the confines of the tent. "So now, no matter what the end result is, I'm
in a position of taking the fall for whatever happens." He stopped
pacing and stood, his back to Owen. "Damn him!" he whispered harshly.
"Damn, damn, damn!"
A moment passed in silence between the two men. When Edrington
around again his face was taut with anger; his jaw tightly clenched.
Owen was somewhat shocked, but secretly pleased, at the fire that was
blazing in the colonel's eyes. Good on you, m'lord, he thought to
himself. I know you won't let us down.
Edrington grabbed up his uniform coat, swung it over his shoulders
was halfway across the tent before Owen even realized he had moved.
Edrington paused long enough to push his arms into the sleeves,
slightly at forcing his injured right shoulder back.
"I'm going to speak to the general. So you can either
stand there slack
jawed or help me make myself more presentable."
Owen smiled and sprang into action. In seemingly no time he
Edrington's kerchief tied around his neck and the sash knotted at his
waist. He gave one last rub on the buttons to bring out their shine
before Edrington buckled his sword belt on. With a brisk nod of thanks
the colonel left the tent, striding swiftly and purposefully.
Owen watched as Edrington made his way down the row of tents,
a considerable amount of attention as he went. Two of the other
sergeants had also watched their commander's progress, and they came over
to where Owen stood, a satisfied smile on his face. Without a word Owen
understood the questions that went unspoken.
"Have no fear, lads. He'll settle Harlan's bacon. Count