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Authors: Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe's Fury - 11

BOOK: Sharpe's Fury - 11
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Richard Sharpe and
the Battle of Barrosa,
March 1811

Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Fury
is for
Eric Sykes.





You were never far from the sea in Cádiz. The…


Now what?” Brigadier Moon demanded.


Two men, both tall, walked side by side on Cádiz’s…



Sharpe was given a room in the embassy’s attic. The…


Sharpe jumped from the lighter into water that came over…


Nothing happened in the next three days. The wind turned…


Sharpe scrambled up the ladder. A musket fired from the…


Henry Wellesley looked tired, and that was to be understood.



It was chaos. Bloody chaos. It was infuriating. “It is,”…


It’s not our fight, sir,” Harper said.


Sharpe and his riflemen, still accompanied by Captain Galiana, walked…


Sir Thomas Graham blamed himself. If he had put three…


I would hate anyone to think that Sergeant Patrick Masterson’s…







from the sea in Cádiz. The smell of it was always there, almost as powerful as the stink of sewage. On the city’s southern side, when the wind was high and from the south, the waves would shatter on the sea wall and spray would rattle on shuttered windows. After the battle of Trafalgar storms had battered the city for a week and the winds had carried the sea spray to the cathedral and torn down scaffolding about its unfinished dome. Waves had besieged Cádiz and pieces of broken ship had clattered on the stones, and then the corpses had come. But that had been almost six years ago and now Spain fought on the same side as Britain, though Cádiz was all that was left of Spain. The rest of the country was either ruled by France or had no government at all. Guerrilleros haunted the hills, poverty ruled the streets, and Spain was sullen.

February 1811. Nighttime. Another storm beat at the city and monstrous waves shattered white against the sea wall. In the dark the watching man could see the explosions of foam and they reminded him of the powder smoke blasted from cannons. There was the same uncertainty about the violence. Just when he thought the waves had done their worst, another two or three would explode in sudden bursts, the white water would bloom above the wall like smoke, and the spray would be driven by the wind to spatter against the city’s white walls like grapeshot.

The man was a priest. Father Salvador Montseny was dressed in a cassock, a cloak, and a wide black hat that he needed to hold against the wind’s buffeting. He was a tall man, in his thirties, a fierce preacher of saturnine good looks, who now waited in the small shelter of an archway. He was a long way from home. Home was in the north where he had grown up as the unloved son of a widower lawyer who had sent Salvador to a church school. He had become a priest because he did not know what else he should be, but now he wished he had been a soldier. He thought he would have been a good soldier, but fate had made him a sailor instead. He had been a chaplain on board a Spanish ship captured at Trafalgar and in the darkness above him the sound of battle crashed again. The sound was the boom and snap of the great canvas sheets that protected the cathedral’s half-built dome, but the wind made the huge tarpaulins sound like cannons. The canvas, he knew, had once been the sails of Spain’s battle fleet, but after Trafalgar the sails had been stripped from the few ships that had limped home. Father Salvador Montseny had been in England then. Most Spanish prisoners had been put ashore swiftly, but Montseny was chaplain to an admiral and he had accompanied his master to the damp country house in Hampshire where he had watched the rain fall and the snow cover the pastures, and where he had learned to hate.

And he had also learned patience. He was being patient now. His hat and cloak were soaked through and he was cold, but he did not stir. He just waited. He had a pistol in his belt, but he reckoned the priming powder would be sodden. It did not matter. He had a knife. He touched the hilt, leaned on the wall, saw another wave break at the street’s end, saw the spray dash past the dim light from an unshuttered window, and then heard the footsteps.

A man came running from the Calle Compania. Father Montseny waited, just a dark shadow in dark shadows, and saw the man go to the door opposite. It was unlocked. The man went through and the priest followed fast, pushing the door open as the man tried to close it.
Father Montseny said.

They were in an arched tunnel that led to the courtyard. A lantern flickered from an alcove and the man, seeing that Montseny was a priest, looked relieved. “You live here, Father?” he asked.

“Last rites,” Father Montseny said, shaking water off his cassock.

“Ah, that poor woman upstairs,” the man made the sign of the cross. “It’s a dirty night,” he said.

“We’ve had worse, my son, and this will pass.”

“True,” the man said. He went into the courtyard and climbed the stairs to the first-floor balcony. “You’re Catalonian, Father?”

“How did you know?”

“Your accent, Father.” The man took out his key and unlocked his front door and the priest appeared to edge past him toward the steps climbing to the second floor.

The man opened his door, then pitched forward as Father Montseny suddenly turned and gave him a push. The man sprawled on the floor. He had a knife and tried to draw it, but the priest kicked him hard under the chin. Then the front door swung shut and they were in the dark. Father Montseny knelt on the fallen man’s chest and put his own knife at his victim’s throat. “Say nothing, my son,” he ordered. He felt under the trapped man’s wet cloak and found the knife, which he drew and tossed up the passageway. “You will speak,” he said, “only when I ask you questions. Your name is Gonzalo Jurado?”

“Yes.” Jurado’s voice was scarce above a breath.

“Do you have the whore’s letters?”

“No,” Jurado said, then squealed because Father Montseny’s knife had cut through his skin to touch his jawbone.

“You will be hurt if you lie,” the priest said. “Do you have the letters?”

“I have them, yes!”

“Then show them to me.”

Father Montseny let Jurado rise. He stayed close as Jurado went into a room that overlooked the street where the priest had waited. Steel struck flint and a candle was lit. Jurado could see his assailant more clearly now and thought Montseny must be a soldier in disguise because his face did not have the look of a priest. It was a dark, lantern-jawed face without pity. “The letters are for sale,” Jurado said, then gasped because Father Montseny had hit him in the belly.

“I said you will speak only when I question you,” the priest said. “Show me the letters.”

The room was small, but very comfortable. It was evident that Gonzalo Jurado liked his luxuries. Two couches faced an empty fireplace above which a gilt-framed mirror hung. There were rugs on the floor. Three paintings hung on the wall opposite the window, all showing naked women. A bureau stood under the window that looked onto the street and the frightened man unlocked one of its drawers and took out a bundle of letters tied with black string. He put them on the bureau and stepped back.

Father Montseny cut the string and spread the letters on the bureau’s leather top. “Is this all of them?”

“All fifteen,” Jurado said.

“And the whore?” Father Montseny asked. “She has some still?”

Jurado hesitated, then saw the knife blade reflect candlelight. “She has six.”

“She kept them?”

“Yes, señor.”


Jurado shrugged. “Fifteen are enough? Maybe she can sell the others later? Perhaps she is still fond of the man? Who knows? Who understands women? But…” He had been about to ask a question, then feared being hit for speaking out of turn.

“Go on,” Father Montseny said, picking out a letter at random.

“How do you know about the letters? I told no one except the English.”

“Your whore made confession,” Father Montseny said.

“Caterina! She went to confession?”

“Once a year, she told me,” Father Montseny said, scanning the letter, “always on her patron saint’s name day. She came to the cathedral, told God about her many sins, and I granted her absolution on his behalf. How much do you want for the letters?”

“English guineas,” Jurado said, “fifteen letters, twenty guineas each.” He was feeling more confident now. He kept a loaded pistol in the bureau’s bottom drawer. He tested the mainspring every day and changed the powder at least once a month. And his fear had subsided now that he understood Montseny really was a priest. A frightening priest, to be sure, but still a man of God. “If you prefer to pay Spanish money, Father,” he went on, “then the letters are yours for thirteen hundred dollars.”

“Thirteen hundred dollars?” Father Montseny responded absently. He was reading one of the letters. It was written in English, but that was no problem for he had learned the language in Hampshire. The letter’s writer had been deeply in love and the fool had committed that love to paper. The fool had made promises, and the girl to whom he had made the promises had turned out to be a whore, and Jurado was her pimp, and now the pimp wanted to blackmail the letter writer.

“I have a reply.” The pimp dared to speak without invitation.

“From the English?”

“Yes, Father. It’s in here.” Jurado gestured at the bureau’s bottom drawer.

Father Montseny nodded his permission and Jurado opened the drawer, then yelped because a fist had struck him so hard that he reeled backward. He hit the door behind him, which gave way so that he fell on his back in the bedroom. Father Montseny took the pistol from the bureau drawer, opened the frizzen, blew out the powder, and tossed the now useless weapon onto one of the silk-covered couches. “You said you had received a reply?” he asked as though there had been no violence.

Jurado was shaking now. “They said they would pay.”

“You have arranged the exchange?”

“Not yet.” Jurado hesitated. “Are you with the English?”

“No, thank God. I am with the most holy Roman church. So how do you communicate with the English?”

“I am to leave a message at the Cinco Torres.”

“Addressed to whom?”

“To a Señor Plummer.”

The Cinco Torres was a coffeehouse on the Calle Ancha. “So in your next message,” Father Montseny said, “you will tell this Plummer where to meet you? Where the exchange will take place?”

“Yes, Father.”

“You have been very helpful, my son,” Father Montseny said, then held out a hand as if to pull Jurado to his feet. Jurado, grateful for the help, allowed himself to be pulled up, and only at the last second saw that he was being hauled onto the priest’s knife that slashed into his throat. Father Montseny grimaced as he wrenched the blade sideways. It was harder than he had thought, but he gave a grunt as he slashed the sharpened steel through gullet and artery and muscle. The pimp collapsed, making a noise like water draining. Montseny held Jurado down as he died. It was messy, but the blood would not show on his black cloak. Some blood trickled through the floorboards where it would drip into the saddler’s shop that occupied most of the building’s ground floor. It took over a minute for the pimp to die, and all the while the blood dripped through the boards, but at last Jurado was dead and Father Montseny made the sign of the cross over the pimp’s face and said a brief prayer for the departed soul. He sheathed his knife, wiped his hands on the dead man’s cloak, and went back to the bureau. He found a great stack of money in one of the drawers and he pushed the folded notes into the top of his left boot and then he bundled the letters. He wrapped them in a cover he took from a cushion and then, to ensure they stayed dry, he put them next to his skin beneath his shirt. He poured a glass of sherry from a decanter and, as he sipped it, he thought about the girl to whom the letters had been written. She lived, he knew, just two streets away and she still had six letters, but he possessed fifteen. More than enough, he decided. Besides, the girl was almost certainly not at home, but servicing a client in one of Cádiz’s more palatial bedrooms.

He blew out the candle and went back into the night where the waves broke white at the city’s edge and the great sails boomed like guns in the wet dark. Father Salvador Montseny, killer, priest, and patriot, had just ensured the salvation of Spain.

all begun so well.

In the moonlit darkness the River Guadiana lay beneath the South Essex Light Company like a misted streak of molten silver pouring slow and massive between black hills. Fort Joseph, named for Napoleon’s brother who was the French puppet on the throne of Spain, was on the hill closest to the company, while Fort Josephine, named after the emperor’s discarded wife, lay at the top of a long slope on the far bank. Fort Joseph was in Portugal, Josephine was in Spain, and between the two forts was a bridge.

Six light companies had been sent from Lisbon under the command of Brigadier General Sir Barnaby Moon. A coming man, Brigadier Moon, a young thruster, an officer destined for higher things, and this was his first independent command. If he got this right, if the bridge was broken, then Sir Barnaby could look to a future as shining as the river that slid between the darkened hills.

And it had all begun so well. The six companies had been ferried across the Tagus in a misted dawn, then had marched across southern Portugal, which was supposedly French-held territory, but the partisans had assured the British that the French had withdrawn their few garrisons and so it proved. Now, just four days after leaving Lisbon, they had reached the river and the bridge. Dawn was close. The British troops were on the Guadiana’s western bank where Fort Joseph had been built on a hill beside the river, and in the last of the night’s darkness the ramparts of the fort were outlined by the glow of fires behind the firestep. The encroaching dawn was dimming that glow, but every now and then the silhouette of a man showed in one of the fort’s embrasures.

The French were awake. The six British light companies knew that because they had heard the bugles calling the reveilles, first in distant Fort Josephine, then in Joseph, but just because the French were awake did not mean they were alert. If you wake men every day in the chill darkness before dawn, they soon learn to carry their dreams to the ramparts. They might look as though they are staring alertly into the dark, ready for a dawn attack, but in truth they are thinking of the women left in France, of the women still sleeping in the fort’s barrack rooms, of the women they wished were sleeping in the fort, of the women they could only dream about, of women. They were dozy.

And the forts had been undisturbed all winter. It was true there were guerrilleros in these hills, but they rarely came close to the forts that had cannon in their embrasures, and peasants armed with muskets quickly learn they are no match for emplaced artillery. The Spanish and Portuguese partisans either ambushed the forage parties of the French troops besieging Badajoz thirty miles to the north or else harried the forces of Marshal Victor who besieged Cádiz a hundred and fifty miles to the south.

BOOK: Sharpe's Fury - 11
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