Sharpe’s sword. Bernard Cornwell

He found La Marquesa writing at a small desk in her dressing room. She smiled at him. “How is it progressing?”


“For certain?”

“No.” He could hardly hide the regret in his voice, but he sensed that she shared it, and he wondered at that. “The Peer will make the decision tomorrow, but he won’t need to wait. It’ll be tomorrow.”

She laid the pen down, stood up, and kissed him swiftly on the cheek. “So tomorrow you’ll take him?”

“Unless he’s dead already.”

She walked onto the mirador and pushed open one of the lattice doors. The San Vincente showed two fires, pale in the strong sun, and the San Cayetano smoked where a fire had been extinguished by the defenders. She turned back to him. “What will you do with him?”

“If he doesn’t resist, then he’s a prisoner.”

“Will you parole him?”

“No, not again. He’ll be shackled. He broke parole. He won’t be exchanged, he won’t be treated well, he’ll just be sent to England, to a prison, and he’ll be held there until the war ends.” He shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe he can be tried for murder because he killed men when he was on parole.” .

“So tomorrow I’m safe?”

“Until they send another one to find you.”

She nodded. He was used to her now, to her gestures, to her sudden dazzling smiles, and he had forgotten the coquettish, teasing woman he had met at San Christobal. That was the public face, she told him, while he saw the private and he wondered if he would see her again, in the future, and he would see the public face surrounded by fawning officers and he would feel a terrible, keen jealousy. She smiled at him. “What happens to you when it’s done?”

“We’ll join the army.”


“No. Sunday perhaps.” The day after tomorrow. “We’ll march north and bring Marmont to battle.”

“And then?”

“Who knows? Madrid perhaps.”

She smiled again. “We have a house in Madrid.”

“A house?”

“It’s very small. No more than sixty rooms.” She laughed at him. “You’ll be very welcome though, alas, it has no secret entrance.” It was unreal, Sharpe knew. They never talked of her husband, or of Teresa. They were secret lovers, Sharpe and a lady, and they would have to stay secret. They had been given these few days, these nights, but fate was going to take them apart; he to a battle, she to the secret war of letters and codes. They had this night, tomorrow’s battle, and then, if they were lucky, just one more night, the last night, and then they were in fate’s hands. She turned to look once more at the fortresses. “Will you fight tomorrow?”


“I can watch you.” She gestured at the telescope on its heavy tripod. “I will watch you.”

“I’ll try not to be tempted into anything rash because of that.”

She smiled. “Don’t be rash. I want you tomorrow.”

“I can bring you Leroux in chains.”

She laughed, a touch of sadness in the sound. “Don’t do that. Remember he may not know who El Mirador is, yet. He might guess, and then he might escape.”

“He won’t escape.”

“No.” She reached out for his hand and led him into the shade of the Palacio. He lowered a wooden-slatted blind against the sunlight and turned to see her on the black-curtained bed. She looked beautiful, pale against the darkness, as fragile as alabaster. She smiled. “You can take your boots off, Captain Sharpe. Siesta time.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Later that afternoon he held her as she slept and she seemed to jump each time the big guns sounded. He kissed her forehead, pushing back the golden hair from her skin, and she opened her eyes sleepily, pushed her body closer to his, and murmured to him. She was only half awake. „I’ll miss you, Richard, I’ll miss you.“

He soothed her, as he would a child, and knew that he would miss her too, but fate was inexorable. Outside, beyond the blind, beyond the lattice, the guns hastened their fate, and they clung to each other as if the press of their bodies might be imprinted on their memories for ever.

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