The seventeenth Sharpe novel sees Sharpe returning from India to London to join the newly formed Green Jackets in Britain.
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July 09, 2002
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Excerpt from Sharpe's Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell
'A hundred and fifteen rupees,' Ensign Richard Sharpe said, counting the money onto the table.
Nana Rao hissed in disapproval, rattled some beads along the wire bars of his abacus and shook his head. 'A hundred and thirty-eight rupees, sahib.'
'One hundred and bloody fifteen!' Sharpe insisted. 'It were fourteen pounds, seven shillings and threepence ha'penny.'
Nana Rao examined his customer, gauging whether to continue the argument. He saw a young officer, a mere ensign of no importance, but this lowly Englishman had a very hard face, a scar on his right cheek and showed no apprehension of the two hulking bodyguards who protected Nana Rao and his warehouse. 'A hundred and fifteen, as you say,' the merchant conceded, scooping the coins into a large black cash box. He offered Sharpe an apologetic shrug. 'I get older, sahib, and find I cannot count!'
'You can count, all right,' Sharpe said, 'but you reckon I can't.'
'But you will be very happy with your purchases,' Nana Rao said, for Sharpe had just become the possessor of a hanging bed, two blankets, a teak travelling chest, a lantern and a box of candles, a hogshead of arrack, a wooden bucket, a box of soap, another of tobacco, and a brass and elmwood filtering machine which he had been assured would render water from the filthiest barrels stored in the bottom-most part of a ship's hold into the sweetest and most palatable liquid.
Nana Rao had demonstrated the filtering machine which he claimed had been brought out from London as part of the baggage of a director of the East India Company who had insisted on only the finest equipment. 'You put the water here, see?' The merchant had poured a pint or so of turbid water into the brass upper chamber. 'And then you allow the water to settle, Mister Sharpe. In five minutes it will be as clear as glass. You observe?' He lifted the upper container to show water dripping from the packed muslin layers of the filter. 'I have myself cleaned the filter, Mister Sharpe, and I will warrant the item's efficiency. It would be a miserable pity to die of mud blockage in the bowel because you would not buy this thing.'