This major new novel will follow the adventures of Richard Sharpe in India, begun so excitingly in Sharpe's Tiger and culminating in the Battle of Assaye, which Wellington considered his greatest victory.
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May 31, 2005
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Excerpt from Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell
It was not Sergeant Richard Sharpe's fault. He was not in charge. He was junior to at least a dozen men, including a major, a captain, a subadar and two jemadars, yet he still felt responsible. He felt responsible, angry, hot, bitter and scared. Blood crusted on his face where a thousand flies crawled. There were even flies in his open mouth.
But he dared not move.
The humid air stank of blood and of the rotted egg smell made by powder smoke. The very last thing he remembered doing was thrusting his pack, haversack and cartridge box into the glowing ashes of a fire, and now the ammunition from the cartridge box exploded. Each blast of powder fountained sparks and ashes into the hot air. A couple of men laughed at the sight. They stopped to watch it for a few seconds, poked at the nearby bodies with their muskets, then walked on.
Sharpe lay still. A fly crawled on his eyeball and he forced himself to stay absolutely motionless. There was blood on his face and more blood had puddled in his right ear, though it was drying now. He blinked, fearing that the small motion would attract one of the killers, but no one noticed.
Chasalgaon. That's where he was. Chasalgaon; a miserable, thorn-walled fort on the frontier of Hyderabad, and because the Rajah of Hyderabad was a British ally the fort had been garrisoned by a hundred sepoys of the East India Company and fifty mercenary horsemen from Mysore, only when Sharpe arrived half the sepoys and all of the horsemen had been out on patrol.
Sharpe had come from Seringapatam, leading a detail of six privates and carrying a leather bag stuffed with rupees, and he had been greeted by Major Crosby who commanded at Chasalgaon. The Major proved to be a plump, red-faced, bilious man who disliked the heat and hated Chasalgaon, and he had slumped in his canvas chair as he unfolded Sharpe's orders. He read them, grunted, then read them again. "Why the hell did they send you?" he finally asked.
"No one else to send, sir."
Crosby frowned at the order. "Why not an officer?"
"No officers to spare, sir."
"Bloody responsible job for a sergeant, wouldn't you say?"
"Won't let you down, sir," Sharpe said woodenly, staring at the leprous yellow of the tent's canvas a few inches above the Major's head.
"You'd bloody well better not let me down," Crosby said, pushing the orders into a pile of damp papers on his camp table. "And you look bloody young to be a sergeant."
"I was born late, sir," Sharpe said. He was twenty-six, or thought he was, and most sergeants were much older.