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'Amen to that, sir.' Harper had infinitely more patience.

'What day is it?'

Sharpe turned to him. 'We must persuade Cox to let us out.'

'Just a bruise.' Lossow saw the midshipman's head. 'Good God.' He knelt by Charles, felt for a pulse, and opened one of the Captain's eyelids. 'Dead, poor fellow.'

Harper kicked the fallen beam. 'Perhaps they can rig another telegraph, sir?'

'What day is it?'

Sharpe felt ashamed. This was Harper's religion. 'I'm sorry.'

'It'll wait.'

Christ, thought Sharpe, Christ and a thousand deaths. Damn the bloody French, damn the bloody gunner, and he might as well have stayed in the warm bed with his arms round the girl. Footsteps sounded in the doorway and he swivelled anxiously, but it was only a squad of bare-headed Portuguese soldiers, muskets slung, who dipped their fingers in the holy water and clattered up the aisle to the priest and his service.

'Amen to that, sir.' Harper had infinitely more patience.

Light, like carved silver, slashed the cathedral's gloom, slanted across the crouching grey pillars, splintered o(T brass and paint, drowned the votive candles that burned before the statues, inched its way over the broad, worn flagstones as the sun moved higher, and Sharpe waited. A priest, lost in the depths of the choir, mumbled beyond the window light, and Sharpe saw Harper cross himself.

Cox had not been at his headquarters; he was on the ramparts, they were told. So the three had hurried there and Cox had gone. Now he was said to be visiting the magazine, so they waited, and the light shaped the dust into silver bars and the muffled responses got lost somewhere in the high stone ceiling, and still Cox had not arrived. Sharpe slammed his scabbard on the floor, hurting his shoulder, so he cursed again.

Sharpe felt ashamed. This was Harper's religion. 'I'm sorry.'

Harper kicked the fallen beam. 'Perhaps they can rig another telegraph, sir?'

'Amen to that, sir.' Harper had infinitely more patience.

Sharpe turned round, blood flecking his uniform, and his face grim. 'We'll get out. With or without him, we'll get out.'

Lossow stood up, wiped blood from his hands. 'We must get out of here!'

The Irishman grinned. 'Wouldn't worry, sir. It doesn't offend me and if it offends Him then He's plenty of opportunity to punish you.'

Sharpe shrugged. 'And who works it? Maybe, I don't know.' He glanced at the battery, its embrasure plugged, and he knew that the French gunners would be celebrating. They deserved it. He doubted if the gun would fire again, not today; the iron barrels had a limited life and the gun had achieved its purpose. 'Come on. Let's see Cox.'

Lossow's heels clicked in the side aisle; he came from behind a pillar, blinked in the sunlight. 'Where is he?' He disappeared again.

Light, like carved silver, slashed the cathedral's gloom, slanted across the crouching grey pillars, splintered o(T brass and paint, drowned the votive candles that burned before the statues, inched its way over the broad, worn flagstones as the sun moved higher, and Sharpe waited. A priest, lost in the depths of the choir, mumbled beyond the window light, and Sharpe saw Harper cross himself.

'You don't sound hopeful, my friend?'

'Sunday, sir.'

'It'll wait.'

'Just a bruise.' Lossow saw the midshipman's head. 'Good God.' He knelt by Charles, felt for a pulse, and opened one of the Captain's eyelids. 'Dead, poor fellow.'

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