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datatime: 2022-12-03 19:59:55 Author:IWTMnABw

'Found a replacement, have you?' Baird asked.

'I wouldn't waste your time, Shee, on trifles, but I'm obliged for your help, though.'

'Thank you, sir.' Sergeant Hakeswill's stiff posture unbent a fraction.

Thus Sharpe went to meet his new comrades and readied himself to face a new enemy. His own side.

'Sir!' Morris upset his chair as he stood up, then he plucked his red coat off the floor where it had fallen with the chair.

Baird waved to show that Morris need not worry about donning a coat. 'There's no need for formality, Captain. Leave your coat off, man, leave it off. It's desperately hot, isn't it?'

'I'm Baird,' Baird introduced himself. 'I don't think we've had the pleasure?'

'Ensign Fitzgerald, sir,' Morris said. 'Lieutenant Fitzgerald now, sir, by brevet, of course.' Morris managed to sound disapproving. He would have much preferred Ensign Hicks to have received the temporary promotion, but Hicks did not have the hundred and fifty pounds needed to purchase up from ensign to lieutenant, whereas Fitzgerald did, and if Lawford's reward for carrying the despatches was a promotion to captain then Fitzgerald must replace him. In Morris's opinion the newly breveted Lieutenant was altogether too easy with the men, but a money draft was a money draft, and Fitzgerald was the monied candidate and so had been given the temporary rank.

'Ensign Fitzgerald, sir,' Morris said. 'Lieutenant Fitzgerald now, sir, by brevet, of course.' Morris managed to sound disapproving. He would have much preferred Ensign Hicks to have received the temporary promotion, but Hicks did not have the hundred and fifty pounds needed to purchase up from ensign to lieutenant, whereas Fitzgerald did, and if Lawford's reward for carrying the despatches was a promotion to captain then Fitzgerald must replace him. In Morris's opinion the newly breveted Lieutenant was altogether too easy with the men, but a money draft was a money draft, and Fitzgerald was the monied candidate and so had been given the temporary rank.

'I'm Baird,' Baird introduced himself. 'I don't think we've had the pleasure?'

Baird found a shirt-sleeved Captain Morris frowning at his paperwork in the company of an oddly malevolent-looking sergeant who, at the General's unannounced arrival, sprang to quivering attention. Morris hastily placed his cocked hat over a tin mug that Baird suspected was full of arrack. 'Captain Morris?' the General asked.

'Sir!' Morris upset his chair as he stood up, then he plucked his red coat off the floor where it had fallen with the chair.

Baird waved to show that Morris need not worry about donning a coat. 'There's no need for formality, Captain. Leave your coat off, man, leave it off. It's desperately hot, isn't it?'

'Unbearable, sir,' Morris said nervously.

Major Shee seemed alarmed at the General's sudden appearance, but Baird soothed the Major and explained he had a little business with the Light Company. 'Nothing to trouble you, Major. Just an administrative matter. A triviality.'

Thus Sharpe went to meet his new comrades and readied himself to face a new enemy. His own side.

General David Baird did not feel guilty about Sharpe and Lawford, for they were soldiers and were paid to take risks, but he did feel responsible for them. The fact that neither the British nor Indian cavalry patrols had discovered the two men suggested that they might well have reached Seringapa-tam, but the more Baird thought about their mission the less sanguine he was about its successful completion. It had seemed a good idea when he had first thought of it, but two days' reflection had diluted that initial hope with a score of reservations. He had always suspected that even with the help of Ravi Shekhar their chances of rescuing McCandless were woefully small, but at the very least he had hoped they might learn McCandless's news and succeed in bringing it out of the city, but now he feared that neither man would even survive. At best, he thought, the two men could only hope to escape execution by joining the Tippoo's forces, which would mean that both Sharpe and Lawford would be in enemy uniform when the British assaulted the city. There was litde Baird could do about that, but he could prevent a dreadful miscarriage of justice following the city's fall, and so that night, when the two armies' great encampment was established just a few days' march from their goal, Baird sought out the lines of the 33rd.

'I wouldn't waste your time, Shee, on trifles, but I'm obliged for your help, though.'

'I'Il take you to Captain Morris, sir,' Shee said, then clapped on his hat and led the General down the line ofofficers' tents. 'It's the end one, sir,' he said nervously. 'Do you need me at all?'

Major Shee seemed alarmed at the General's sudden appearance, but Baird soothed the Major and explained he had a little business with the Light Company. 'Nothing to trouble you, Major. Just an administrative matter. A triviality.'

'Probation, sir?' Lawford offered.

'Ensign Fitzgerald, sir,' Morris said. 'Lieutenant Fitzgerald now, sir, by brevet, of course.' Morris managed to sound disapproving. He would have much preferred Ensign Hicks to have received the temporary promotion, but Hicks did not have the hundred and fifty pounds needed to purchase up from ensign to lieutenant, whereas Fitzgerald did, and if Lawford's reward for carrying the despatches was a promotion to captain then Fitzgerald must replace him. In Morris's opinion the newly breveted Lieutenant was altogether too easy with the men, but a money draft was a money draft, and Fitzgerald was the monied candidate and so had been given the temporary rank.

Mary stood on tiptoe and kissed Sharpe's cheek. 'I'll be all right, love,' she whispered, 'and so will you.'

'Ensign Fitzgerald, sir,' Morris said. 'Lieutenant Fitzgerald now, sir, by brevet, of course.' Morris managed to sound disapproving. He would have much preferred Ensign Hicks to have received the temporary promotion, but Hicks did not have the hundred and fifty pounds needed to purchase up from ensign to lieutenant, whereas Fitzgerald did, and if Lawford's reward for carrying the despatches was a promotion to captain then Fitzgerald must replace him. In Morris's opinion the newly breveted Lieutenant was altogether too easy with the men, but a money draft was a money draft, and Fitzgerald was the monied candidate and so had been given the temporary rank.

Baird waved to show that Morris need not worry about donning a coat. 'There's no need for formality, Captain. Leave your coat off, man, leave it off. It's desperately hot, isn't it?'

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