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datatime: 2022-11-26 17:55:21 Author:FKVDWguv

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?'

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

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

'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.

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

'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.

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

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

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

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

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

'Probation, sir?' Lawford offered.

Gudin gestured towards the archway. 'We must let Doctor Venkatesh finish your back, Sharpe, then give you both new uniforms and muskets. Welcome to the Tippoo Sultan's army, gentlemen. You earn a haideri each every day.'

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.

'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?'

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

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.'

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

'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.

'Unbearable, sir,' Morris said nervously.

Gudin gestured towards the archway. 'We must let Doctor Venkatesh finish your back, Sharpe, then give you both new uniforms and muskets. Welcome to the Tippoo Sultan's army, gentlemen. You earn a haideri each every day.'

'Good money!' Sharpe said, impressed. A haideri was worth half a crown, far above the miserable tuppence a day he received in the British army.

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