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Михаил (19.04.2017 - 06:11:11)
книге:  Петля и камень на зелёной траве

Потрясающая книга. Не понравится только нацистам.

Антихрист666 (18.04.2017 - 21:05:58)
книге:  Дом чудовищ (Подвал)

Классное чтиво!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ладно, теперь поспешили вы... (18.04.2017 - 20:50:34)
книге:  Физики шутят

"Не для сайта!" – это не имя. Я пытался завершить нашу затянувшуюся неудачную переписку, оставшуюся за окном сайта, а вы вын... >>

Роман (18.04.2017 - 18:12:26)
книге:  Если хочешь быть богатым и счастливым не ходи в школу?

Прочитал все его книги! Великий человек, кардинально изменил мою жизнь.

АНДРЕЙ (18.04.2017 - 16:42:55)
книге:  Технология власти

ПОЛЕЗНАЯ КНИГА. Жаль, что мало в России тех, кто прочитал...

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И знаю, ты умрёшь с моей изменой.... >>

30.08.10 - 01:29
Ли Шин Го

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Sharpes Escape   ::   Корнуэлл Бернард

Страница: 3 из 110
 
"I am Major Ferreira," he said in good English, "and you are?"

"Captain Sharpe."

"And Captain Slingsby." Lieutenant Slingsby had insisted on accompanying Sharpe to meet the Portuguese officer, just as he insisted on using his brevet rank even though he had no right to do so any longer.

"I command here," Sharpe said laconically.

"And your purpose, Captain?" Ferreira demanded. He was a tall man, lean and dark, with a carefully trimmed mustache. He had the manners and bearing of privilege, but Sharpe detected an uneasiness in the Portuguese Major that Ferreira attempted to cover with a brusque manner that tempted Sharpe to insolence. He fought the temptation and told the truth instead.

"We're ordered to burn the telegraph."

Ferreira glanced at Sharpe's men who were straggling onto the hill's summit. He seemed taken aback by Sharpe's words, but then smiled unconvincingly. "I shall do it for you, Captain. It will be my pleasure."

"I carry out my own orders, sir," Sharpe said.

Ferreira scented the insolence and gave Sharpe a quizzical look. For a second Sharpe thought the Portuguese Major intended to offer him a reprimand, but instead Ferreira nodded curtly. "If you insist," he said, "but do it quickly."

"Quickly, sir!" Slingsby intervened enthusiastically. "No point in waiting!" He turned on Harper. "Sergeant Harper! The combustibles, if you please. Quick, man, quick!"

Harper glanced at Sharpe for approval of the Lieutenant's orders, but Sharpe betrayed nothing, and so the big Irishman shouted at the dozen men who were burdened with cavalry forage nets that were stuffed full of straw. Another six men carried jars of turpentine, and now the straw was heaped about the four legs of the telegraph station and then soaked with the turpentine. Ferreira watched them work for a while, then went back to join the civilians who appeared worried by the arrival of British soldiers. "It's all ready, sir," Harper called to Sharpe, "shall I light her up?"

Slingsby did not even give Sharpe time to answer. "Let's not dillydally, Sergeant!" he said briskly. "Fire it up!"

"Wait," Sharpe snarled, making Slingsby blink at the harshness of his tone. Officers were expected to treat each other courteously in front of the men, but Sharpe had snapped angrily and the look he gave Slingsby made the Lieutenant step backwards in surprise. Slingsby frowned, but said nothing as Sharpe climbed the ladder to the mast's platform that stood fifteen feet above the hilltop. Three pock marks in the boards showed where the Midshipman had placed his tripod so he could stare at the neighboring telegraph stations and read their messages. The station to the north had already been destroyed, but looking south Sharpe could just see the next tower somewhere beyond the River Criz and still behind British lines. It would not be behind the lines for long, he thought. Marshal Massena's army was flooding into central Portugal and the British would be retreating to their newly built defensive lines at Torres Vedras. The plan was to retreat to the new fortifications, let the French come, then either kill their futile attacks or watch them starve.

And to help them starve, the British and Portuguese were leaving them nothing. Every barn, every larder, every storehouse was being emptied. Crops were being burned in their fields, windmills were being destroyed and wells made foul with carcasses. The inhabitants of every town and village in central Portugal were being evicted, taking their livestock with them, ordered to go either behind the Lines of Torres Vedras or else up into the high hills where the French would be reluctant to follow. The intention was that the enemy would find a scorched land, bare of everything, even of telegraph ropes.

Sharpe untied one of the signal ropes and pulled down the white flag that turned out to be a big handkerchief of fine linen, neatly hemmed with the initials PAF embroidered in blue into one corner. Ferreira? Sharpe looked down on the Portuguese Major who was watching him. "Yours, Major?" Sharpe asked.

"No," Ferreira called back.

"Mine then," Sharpe said, and pocketed the handkerchief. He saw the anger on Ferreira's face and was amused by it. "You might want to move those horses," he nodded at the beasts picketed beside the shrine, "before we burn the tower."

"Thank you, Captain," Ferreira said icily.

"Fire it now, Sharpe?" Slingsby demanded from the ground.

"Not till I'm off the bloody platform," Sharpe growled. He looked round one last time and saw a small mist of gray-white powder smoke far off to the southeast. He pulled out his telescope, the precious glass that had been given to him by Sir Arthur Wellesley, now Lord Wellington, and he rested it on the balustrade and then knelt and stared towards the smoke. He could see little, but he reckoned he was watching the British rearguard in action. French cavalry must have pressed too close and a battalion was firing volleys, backed up by the cannons of the Royal Horse Artillery. He could just hear the soft thump of the far-off guns. He swept the glass north, the lens traveling over a hard country of hills, rocks and barren pasture, and there was nothing there, nothing at all, until suddenly he saw a hint of a different green and he jerked the glass back, settled it and saw them.

Cavalry. French cavalry. Dragoons in their green coats. They were at least a mile away, in a valley, but coming towards the telegraph station. Reflected sunlight glinted from their buckles, bits and stirrups as Sharpe tried to count them. Forty? Sixty men perhaps, it was hard to tell for the squadron was twisting between rocks in the valley's deep heart and going from sunshine to shadow. They looked to be in no particular hurry and Sharpe wondered if they had been sent to capture the telegraph station which would serve the advancing French as well as it had served the British.

"We've got company, Sergeant!" Sharpe called down to Harper. Decency and courtesy demanded that he should have told Slingsby, but he could barely bring himself to talk to the man, so he spoke to Harper instead. "At least a squadron of green bastards. About a mile away, but they could be here in a few minutes." He collapsed the telescope and went down the ladder and nodded at the Irish Sergeant. "Spark it off," he said.

The turpentine-soaked straw blazed bright and high, but it took some moments before the big timbers of the scaffold caught the flame. Sharpe's company, as ever fascinated by willful destruction, looked on appreciatively and gave a small cheer as the high platform at last began to burn.

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