Sharpe’s sword. Bernard Cornwell

Finally, as the afternoon wore on, he sharpened the blade. He gave Sharpe an edge that the Captain had never had, and he worked at it, and worked, and the perfectionist in him would not give up until the fore edge, and the top seven inches of the back, were razor sharp. He let the wheel slow to a stop.

He took a rag and poured olive oil onto the sword. He polished it again, oiled it, and the sword was unrecognisable from the blade he had taken from the storekeeper. It was no Kligenthal, but it was no ordinary sword. He had remade Sharpe’s sword, done it with care and friendship, and he had put into his work all the Celtic magic that he could muster. It was as if in working on the sword he was working on Sharpe himself, and he held the finished blade up to the westering sun and it blazed white light in a dazzling burst. It was made.

He took the sword upstairs, looked forward to Sharpe’s face, and Isabella met him. She was running down the cloister and at first Harper was alarmed, and then he saw the look on her face and she threw herself at him, talked so fast that he had to slow her down, and she gabbled her news. A woman had come, and such a woman! Hair like gold and a coach with four horses! She had visited the hospital and she had given gifts to the wounded men and then – Isabella’s eyes still sparkled at the memory – the woman had come to Sharpe’s room and she had visited the Captain and she had been angry.

Harper slowed her down. “Angry?” The Captain was a hero, wasn’t he? La Marquesa had shouted at the doctors, had told them it was disgusting that a hero should live in such a place and tomorrow La Marquesa was sending a carriage that was to take Sharpe to a house outside the town, a house fey the river, and the best of it was, and here Isabella jumped up and down beside her huge Irishman, clutching at his jacket in her excitement, that the aristocrat had talked to her, Isabella! She and Harper were to go with the Captain. They would have servants, cooks, and Isabella twirled in the cloister and said that La Marquesa had been kind to her, grateful to her, and by the way the Captain was feeling better.

Harper grinned because of her infectious delight. “Say that all again.”

She said it again, and this time she wanted to know where he had been. He had missed La Marquesa, the most gracious person Isabella had ever met, a Queen! Well, almost a Queen, and Harper missed her, and tomorrow they were all moving to a house by the river and they were to have servants! And by the way the Captain is much better.

“What do you mean, better?”

“I changed the bandage, si? She was here! I thought she might visit us. She visit everyone. So I change the bandage and no muck? Patrick! No muck!”

“No pus?”

“No nothing. No muck, no blood.”

“Where is he now?”

She opened her eyes wide because her tale was dramatic. “He sit up in bed, si? Up! He very happy that La Marquesa see him!.” She punched Harper. “And you do not see her! Four horses! And your friend was here.”

“My friend?”

“The English Lord. Lord Spears.” She sighed. “He has a blue and silver uniform, all shining, and no arm any more! The bandage is off!”

“You mean his arm is out of the sling?”

“That’s what I say.” She smiled at him. “You would look good in blue and silver.”

“Aye. It would make a change from black and blue.” He grinned at her. “Would you stay here, woman? I want to talk to him.”

He pushed open the door of Sharpe’s room and, as Isabella had said, Sharpe was sitting up. There was an expression of wonderment on Sharpe’s face as if he expected the clenching pain to come back at any moment. He looked up at Harper and smiled. “It’s better than it was. I don’t understand it.”

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