Sharpe’s sword. Bernard Cornwell

“Yours? Good God!” Sharpe’s hands fumbled with the rein while his right boot had come out of the stirrup. He never understood how other people made riding look easy. “How in hell’s name did Leroux get a list in your handwriting?”

“Now there’s a question to cheer up a dull morning. How in hell’s name did he? Horse dealers!” He said the last words scornfully, as if Sharpe had been at fault.

The Rifleman had managed to get his foot back into the stirrup. “So what was it?”

“We have informants, yes? Hundreds of them. Almost every priest, doctor, mayor, shoemaker, blacksmith and anyone else you care to mention sends us snippets of news about the French. Marmont can’t break wind without ten messages telling us. Some of them, Richard, are very good messages indeed, and some of them cost us money.” Hogan paused as they passed a battery of artillery. He returned a Lieutenant’s salute, then looked back at Sharpe. “Most of them do it out of patriotism, but a few need money to keep their loyalty intact. That list, Richard, was my list of payments for the month of April.” Hogan looked and sounded sour. “It means, Richard, that someone in our headquarters is working for the French, for Leroux. God knows who! We’ve got cooks, washerwomen, grooms, clerks, servants, sentries, anyone! God! I thought I’d just misplaced that list, but no.”


“So? So Leroux has worked his way through that list. He’s killed most of them in ways that are pretty horrid, and that’s bad enough, but the really bad news is yet to come. One man on that list, a priest, just happened to know something that I’d rather he hadn’t known. And now, I think, Leroux knows it.”

Sharpe said nothing. His horse was ambling happily enough, going westward on the track that led behind the ridge. He would let Hogan tell his unhappy tale at his own pace.

The Irish Major wiped sweat from his face. “Leroux, Richard, is damned close to hurting us really badly. We can afford to lose a few priests and mayors, but that’s not what Leroux wants. We can afford to lose Colquhoun Grant, but that isn’t what Leroux came here to do either. There’s one person, Richard, we can’t afford to lose. That’s the person Leroux came to get.”

Sharpe frowned. “Wellington?”

“Him too, maybe, but no. Not Wellington.” Hogan slapped irritably at a fly. “This is the bit I shouldn’t tell you, Richard, but I’ll tell you a little of it, just enough so you know how important it is for you to stop that bastard getting out of the forts.” He paused again, collecting his thoughts. “I told you we have informants throughout Spain. They’re useful, God knows they’re useful, but we have informants of much more value than that. We have men and women in Italy, in Germany, in France, in Paris itself! People who hate Bonaparte and want to help us, and they do. A regiment of Lancers leaves Milan and we know it within two weeks, and we know where they’re going and how good their horses are, and even the name of their Colonel’s mistress. If Bonaparte bawls out a General, we know about it, if he asks for a map of Patagonia we hear about it. Sometimes I think we know more about Bonaparte’s empire than he does, and all, Richard, because of one person who just happens to live in Salamanca. And that person, Richard, is the person Leroux has come to find. And once he’s found them, he’ll torture them, he’ll find out all the names of the correspondents throughout Europe, and suddenly we’ll be blind.”

Sharpe knew better than to ask who the person was. He waited.

Hogan smiled wryly. “You want to know who it is? Well, I won’t tell you. I know, Wellington knows, and a few Spaniards know because they’re responsible for passing the messages to Salamanca.”

“The priest knew?”

“Aye. The priest on my list knew, and now, God rest his soul, he’s dead. Most of the messengers don’t know the real name, they just know the codename. El Mirador.”

“El Mirador.” Sharpe repeated the words.

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