Sharpe’s sword. Bernard Cornwell

“Reward you! More blood money?”

“No.” Blood was dark on his cheek. “I wanted her body just once. Just once.” He made a choking sound that could have been a laugh or a sob. “I didn’t get it. Leroux gave me back my parole instead. He returned me my honour.” The bitterness was rank in his voice.

The dark bulk of the Greater Arapile was topped by two small fires. It blocked Sharpe’s view of the lights of Salamanca. “Where’s Leroux now?”

“He’s riding for Paris.”

“Which way?”

“He’s going to Alba de Tormes.”

Sharpe looked at Spears, dying on the ground. “You didn’t tell him the Spanish were there?”

“He didn’t seem to care.”

Sharpe swore softly. He must go. He swore again, louder, because he liked Spears and he hated this sudden weakness, this collapse of a man, this sale of honour. “You sold all our agents for one parole?”

No. There had been money, too, Spears said, but the money was to be paid when Leroux reached Paris and it would go to Dorothy in England. A dowry, Spears’ last treacherous gift, and he pleaded with Sharpe, told Sharpe he could not understand; family was all, and Sharpe stood up. “I’m going.”

Spears lay on the ground, defeated, broken. “One last promise?”


“If you find him she won’t get the money.”


“Then keep my honour for her.” The voice was husky, close to breaking. “Tell her I was a hero.”

Sharpe lifted the sword, put the point in the scabbard, and drove it home. “I’ll tell her you died a hero. Your wounds in front.”

Spears rolled onto his side because it was easier to void the blood. “And one thing more.”

“I’m in a hurry.” Sharpe had to find Hogan. He would rouse Harper first, because the Sergeant would want to join this final hunt, this last chance against their enemy. Leroux had killed Windham, killed McDonald, he had come close to killing Sharpe, he had tortured Spanish priests, and he had taken the honour of Lord Spears. Sharpe had been given one more chance in the wreckage after the battle.

“I’m in a hurry, too.” Spears waved a feeble hand towards the battlefield. “I don’t want those bloody looters to kill me, Richard. Do that much for me.” He blinked. “It hurts, Richard, it hurts.”

Sharpe remembered Connelley. Die well, lad, die well. “You want me to kill you?”

“The last office of a friend?” It was a plea.

Sharpe picked up Spears’ pistol, cocked it, and crouched beside the supine cavalryman. “Are you sure?”

“It hurts. Tell her I died well.”

Sharpe had liked this man. He remembered the chicken being tossed like a howitzer shell at the ball, he remembered the great shout in the big Plaza on the morning after the first night on the mirador. This man had made Sharpe laugh, had shared wine with him, and now he was a miserable, broken man who had given his honour first to Leroux, and now to Sharpe. „I’ll tell her you died well. I’ll tell her you were a hero. I’ll make you into Sir Lancelot.“ Spears smiled. His eyes were on Sharpe. The Rifleman brought the pistol close to Spears’ neck. „I’ll tell her to build a new church big enough for the bloody plaque.” Spears smiled wider and the bullet went beneath his chin, up through the skull, and erupted at the top of his head. It was the kind of wound that a hero, on horseback, might fetch. He died instantly, smiling, and Sharpe’s greatcoat was spattered by the wound. He pulled it out, then threw it down, hating it. He turned and hurled the pistol into the trees, heard it crash through branches and twigs, and then there was silence. He looked down on Spears and cursed himself that he had ever become involved. Spears had talked ofthejoy that war could bring, theirresponsibility of unshackled youth, but there was little joy in this secret war.

He bent down and picked up his greatcoat, shook it out, and walked to the horses. He mounted his own, led Spears’ by the reins, and went down the bank. He paused at its foot, looked back, and the body was a dark shadow against the grass. He told himself that the tears in the corners of his eyes were just irritation from the smoke of battle; something any man could expect.

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