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The Irishman grinned. 'Wouldn't worry, sir. It doesn't offend me and if it offends Him then He's plenty of opportunity to punish you.'

'What day is it?'

The Irishman grinned. 'Wouldn't worry, sir. It doesn't offend me and if it offends Him then He's plenty of opportunity to punish you.'

Lossow's heels clicked in the side aisle; he came from behind a pillar, blinked in the sunlight. 'Where is he?' He disappeared again.

Harper kicked the fallen beam. 'Perhaps they can rig another telegraph, sir?'

Sharpe turned round, blood flecking his uniform, and his face grim. 'We'll get out. With or without him, we'll get out.'

Sharpe turned round, blood flecking his uniform, and his face grim. 'We'll get out. With or without him, we'll get out.'

'Yes.' Sharpe's shoulder hurt like the devil. 'Where's the boy?'

Lossow swore in German, stood up, flinched as he put his weight on his left leg. Sharpe looked at him. 'Are you - hurt?'

'You want to go?'

The Sergeant pointed to the head. 'Rest of him's over the wall, sir. Poor wee thing.'

Lossow's heels clicked in the side aisle; he came from behind a pillar, blinked in the sunlight. 'Where is he?' He disappeared again.

Sharpe shrugged. 'And who works it? Maybe, I don't know.' He glanced at the battery, its embrasure plugged, and he knew that the French gunners would be celebrating. They deserved it. He doubted if the gun would fire again, not today; the iron barrels had a limited life and the gun had achieved its purpose. 'Come on. Let's see Cox.'

The Sergeant pointed to the head. 'Rest of him's over the wall, sir. Poor wee thing.'

'Ja. Not easy, my friend.'

The Irishman grinned. 'Wouldn't worry, sir. It doesn't offend me and if it offends Him then He's plenty of opportunity to punish you.'

Sharpe shrugged. 'And who works it? Maybe, I don't know.' He glanced at the battery, its embrasure plugged, and he knew that the French gunners would be celebrating. They deserved it. He doubted if the gun would fire again, not today; the iron barrels had a limited life and the gun had achieved its purpose. 'Come on. Let's see Cox.'

Sharpe felt ashamed. This was Harper's religion. 'I'm sorry.'

'You don't sound hopeful, my friend?'

'Yes.' Sharpe's shoulder hurt like the devil. 'Where's the boy?'

The Sergeant pointed to the head. 'Rest of him's over the wall, sir. Poor wee thing.'

'You want to go?'

Sharpe felt ashamed. This was Harper's religion. 'I'm sorry.'

Christ, thought Sharpe, Christ and a thousand deaths. Damn the bloody French, damn the bloody gunner, and he might as well have stayed in the warm bed with his arms round the girl. Footsteps sounded in the doorway and he swivelled anxiously, but it was only a squad of bare-headed Portuguese soldiers, muskets slung, who dipped their fingers in the holy water and clattered up the aisle to the priest and his service.

Christ, thought Sharpe, Christ and a thousand deaths. Damn the bloody French, damn the bloody gunner, and he might as well have stayed in the warm bed with his arms round the girl. Footsteps sounded in the doorway and he swivelled anxiously, but it was only a squad of bare-headed Portuguese soldiers, muskets slung, who dipped their fingers in the holy water and clattered up the aisle to the priest and his service.

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