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'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.

'Unbearable, sir,' Morris said nervously.

'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 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?'

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

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

'Probation, sir?' Lawford offered.

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

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

'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.

'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.

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

'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.

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

'Unbearable, sir,' Morris said nervously.

'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.

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

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

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

'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.

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

'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?'

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

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