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datatime: 2022-11-27 11:02:51 Author:qIbWziWb

'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.'

'Sunday, sir.'

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

'You want to go?'

Harper looked over the ramparts, at the drifting smoke. 'Just four shots. That's good shooting.' There was a reluctant respect in his voice.

Harper looked over the ramparts, at the drifting smoke. 'Just four shots. That's good shooting.' There was a reluctant respect in his voice.

'You want to go?'

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.'

'Sunday, sir.'

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

'Is that Mass?'

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.'

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.

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.

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.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Is that Mass?'

'Is that Mass?'

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.

'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.'

Lossow swore in German, stood up, flinched as he put his weight on his left leg. Sharpe looked at him. 'Are you - hurt?'

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

'You want to go?'

'You want to go?'

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

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