It is 1810, and in Napoleon's determination to conquer Portugal-and push the British back to the sea-he sends his largest army yet across the Spanish frontier. But between the Portuguese border and Napoleon's seemingly certain victory are twoobstacles-a wasted land, stripped of food by Wellington's orders, and Captain Richard Sharpe.
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April 25, 2006
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Excerpt from Sharpe's Escape by Bernard Cornwell
Mister Sharpe was in a bad mood. A filthy mood. He was looking for trouble in Sergeant Harper's opinion, and Harper was rarely wrong about Captain Sharpe, and Sergeant Harper knew well enough not to engage his Captain in conversation when Sharpe was in such a black temper, but on the other hand Harper liked to live dangerously. "I see your uniform's been mended, sir," he said cheerily.
Sharpe ignored the comment. He just marched on, climbing the bare Portuguese slope under the searing sun. It was September 1810, almost autumn, yet the heat of late summer hammered the landscape like a furnace. At the top of the hill, another mile or so ahead of Sharpe, stood a barn-like stone building next to a gaunt telegraph station. The station was a black timber scaffolding supporting a high mast from which signaling arms hung motionless in the afternoon's heat.
"It's a rare nice piece of stitching on that jacket," Harper went on, sounding as though he did not have a care in the world, "and I can tell you didn't do it yourself. It looks like a woman's work, so it does?" He inflected the last three words as a question.
Sharpe still said nothing. His long, straight-bladed cavalry sword banged against his left thigh as he climbed. He had a rifle slung on his shoulder. An officer was not supposed to carry a longarm like his men, but Sharpe had once been a private and he was used to carrying a proper gun to war.
"Was it someone you met in Lisbon, now?" Harper persisted.