Sharpe’s sword. Bernard Cornwell

„I’ll write.“ Sharpe took off his shako and pushed a hand through his hair. ”I’m sure the Peer will write.“

Spears turned his head to look at Sharpe again. “And tell Helena she broke my heart.”

Sharpe smiled. He did not know if he would ever see La Marquesa again, but he nodded. „I’ll tell her.“

Spears sighed, smiled ruefully, and stared at the battlefield.“ I could havedone my bit for England. Given her the pox.”

Sharpe grinned dutifully. He supposed that it must be near eleven o’clock. So many people in England would be going to bed and they would be quite ignorant that at tea-time the Third Division had smashed the French left, and that by the time the bone china was cleared away the French had lost a quarter of their army. In a few days, though, the bells would ring out in all the villages and parsons would give thanks to God as though the deity were some kind of superior General of Division. The squires would pay for hogsheads of beer and make speeches about the Tyrant Broken by Honest Englishmen. There would be a fresh crop of plaques in the churches, for those who could afford it, but on the whole England would not show much gratitude for the men who had done their bit this day. Then he remembered what Spears had said. “Given her the pox‘, ”done my bit for England’ and Sharpe was suddenly cold inside. Spears knew she was French and he had betrayed it because he could not resist the joke. Sharpe kept his voice calm. “How long have you known about her?”

Spears twisted to look at him. “You know?”


“Jesus. The things people say in bed.” He wiped blood off his cheek.

Sharpe stared into the darkness. “How long have you known.”

Spears tossed his cigar down the slope. “A month.”

“Did you tell Hogan?”

There was a pause. Sharpe looked at Spears. The cavalryman was watching him, conscious suddenly that he had said too much. Slowly, Spears nodded. “Of course I did.” He smiled suddenly. “How many do you think died today?”

Sharpe did not reply. He knew Spears was lying. Hogan had only discovered that La Marquesa was once Helene Leroux yesterday. Curtis had received the letter in the morning, seen Hogan in the afternoon, and then come to Sharpe. Spears had never told Hogan, nor did Spears know that Curtis had seen Sharpe. “How did you find out?”

“It doesn’t matter, Richard.”

“It does.”

There was a flash of anger in Spears. “I’m a bloody Exploring Officer, remember? It’s my job to find things out.”

“And to tell Hogan. You didn’t.”

Spears breathed heavily. He watched Sharpe, then shook his head. His voice was weary. “Christ! It doesn’t matter now.”

Sharpe stood up, tall against the night sky, and he hated what he had to do, but it did matter now, whatever Spears thought. The sword hissed out of the scabbard, came free, and the steel was pale in the half-moon.

Spears frowned. “What the hell are you doing?”

Sharpe put the blade beneath Spears, pushed away a protesting arm, and then levered with the steel so that the cavalryman was half rolled over, facing away from Sharpe, and then the Rifleman put one foot on Spears’ waist and the sword blade against Spears’ back. There was anger in

Sharpe’s voice, a cold, frightening anger. “Heroes don’t have scarred backs. You talk to me, my lord, or I’ll carve your back into bloody ribbons. I’ll tell your sister you died as a poxed coward, with your wounds behind.”

“I know nothing!”

Sharpe leaned on the blade, enough for its razor point to go through cloth. His voice was loud, strong. “You know, you bastard. You knew she was French, no one else did. You knew she was Leroux’s sister, didn’t you?” There was silence. He pushed the sword.

“Yes.” Spears choked, spat blood. “Stop it, for God’s sake, stop it.”

“Then talk.” There was silence again, except for the wind rustling the leaves of the trees behind them, the crackle of flames from the fires of the Sixth Division, and the desultory, far-away musket shots. Sharpe lowered his voice. “Your sister will be disgraced. She’ll have nothing. No money, no prospects, not even a dead hero as a brother. She’ll have to marry some ironmonger with dirty hands and a great belly and she’ll whore herself for his money. You want me to save your bloody honour, my lord? You talk.”

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