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'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.

'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.'

'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.

'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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

'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.'

'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.'

'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?'

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

'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.

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

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

'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?'

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

'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.

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

'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.'

'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.

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