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datatime: 2022-12-04 01:00:48 Author:okEtsIuK

'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?'

'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.

'Probation, sir?' Lawford offered.

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

Baird smiled at Morris. 'You lost two men this week, Captain, did you not?'

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.

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

'But doubtless in arrears,' Lawford said sarcastically. He was still angry at Sharpe for having tried to shoot McCandless, and the musket's misfire had not placated him.

'The pay is always in arrears,' Gudin admitted cheerfully, 'but in what army is the pay ever on time? Officially you earn a haideri a day, though you will rarely receive it, but I can promise you other consolations. Now come.' He summonedDoctor Venkatesh who retrieved his basket and followed Gudin out of the palace.

'No, sir.' Morris was too nervous to introduce himself properly.

Baird smiled at Morris. 'You lost two men this week, Captain, did you not?'

'Exactly,' Gudin said. 'And soldiers on probation are not permitted wives. Don't worry, Sharpe. I'm sure your woman will be safe in General Rao's house. Now go, Mademoiselle.'

Baird smiled at Morris. 'You lost two men this week, Captain, did you not?'

'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.'

'No, sir.' Morris was too nervous to introduce himself properly.

'Two men?' Morris frowned. That bastard Sharpe had run, taking his bibbi with him, but who else? 'Oh!' Morris said. 'You mean Lieutenant Lawford, sir?The very fellow. A lucky fellow too, eh? Carrying the despatch to Madras. It's quite an honour for him.' Baird shook his head ruefully. 'Myself, I'm not so certain that little scrap the other day was worth a despatch, but General Harris insisted and your Colonel chose Lawford.' Baird was using the excuse the army had invented to explain Lawford's disappearance. The excuse had provoked some resentment in the 33rd for Lawford was one of the most junior of the battalion's lieutenants and most men who carried despatches could expect a promotion as a reward for the task which, in turn, was usually only given to men who had distinguished themselves in battle. It seemed to Morris, as to every other officer in the battalion, that Lawford had neither distinguished himself nor deserved promotion, but Morris could hardly admit as much to Baird.

'No, sir.' Morris was too nervous to introduce himself properly.

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

'Very glad for him,' Morris managed to say.

'The pay is always in arrears,' Gudin admitted cheerfully, 'but in what army is the pay ever on time? Officially you earn a haideri a day, though you will rarely receive it, but I can promise you other consolations. Now come.' He summonedDoctor Venkatesh who retrieved his basket and followed Gudin out of the palace.

'Look after yourself, lass,' Sharpe said, and watched her follow the tall Indian officer out of the courtyard.

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

'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?'

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