"Ramona, Have you prepared any soup?" Harper asked his wife.
"It has just done cooking." The Spanish woman replied. "Why?"
"Who is she?" A young boy with dark hair asked before he could respond.
Ramona looked up to see what her son was talking about, and saw Sharpe walking past with a girl on a black horse. She gave Harper a questioning look.
"Antonia." He answered, causing Ramona's eyes to widen.
"No! It cannot be."
"Aye but it is, she came to find him."
Patrick watched his parents in wonder. "Who is Antonia?" He persisted.
Harper turned to him. "Antonia Sharpe, is Major Sharpe's daughter."
"Oh." Young Patrick watched as the girl dismounted her horse, and Sharpe signalled at a young soldier to take it away.
Ramona filled a bowl with soup. "For Antonia, yes?"
Harper nodded and prepared to take it when Patrick jumped forward.
"I will take it to her." He offered.
Harper smiled at his son's eagerness. "Aye then Patrick don't drop it or she may not take a liking to ya."
Patrick nodded and set off importantly with his father shaking his head, behind him.
"Would you like some soup Miss?" Patrick sat down next to Antonia, who looked up and smiled at him.
"Thankyou." She said, smiling again.
"My pa told me you shot three French soldiers dead." He said in awe.
Antonia nodded, "They were trying to stop me from reaching the village, I was only a few miles away when they saw me, and came after me. One of them shot at me, but I was too fast."
As Sharpe watched his daughter converse with Harper's son he was still completely shocked. She had made her way here on her own, fought off French soldiers and survived the long journey from her Uncle's town.
It grew dark, and presently the Chosen Men grouped themselves around the fire.
"What are you going to do with her?" Harper asked as he sat down with his tea.
"I don't know Pat, she wants to stay here. How am I supposed to look after her?" Sharpe sighed.
"Well it seems you wouldn't have to worry about that. She looks quite capable of looking after herself.
"But why? Why would she come to the middle of the war when she had a comfortable life with Teresa's family?" He pondered, watching her carefully.
"She came to find you, didn't she?" Harper followed his gaze.
Sharpe shook his head. "There is something else, something she is not willing to let us know."
"I hope you will be comfortable." Sharpe said, as he showed Antonia into the bedroom of a small cottage.
"I think I will, this is quite a comfortable room. Thankyou Father." Antonia considered her surroundings. "How did you acquire this place?"
"The village was deserted when we arrived, I thought this would do well for your accommodation." Sharpe explained.
"Oh, well it will do wonderfully." She replied.
"I shall be in the next room if you need anything."
"Good night Father." Antonia said warmly, and she hugged her father.
"Good night Antonia." Sharpe whispered into her hair, before turning to leave.
Antonia watched him close the door behind himself, and turned to the bed. She sighed, he did not want her here, he wanted her safe. But she knew that she was safer with him than she would be if she had stayed with her Uncle.
Sharpe would not want her in the middle of the war, but he did not know how helpful she could be to him.
Slipping under the covers of the tiny bed, she knew that she had to convince her father to let her stay. She had left her uncle's household for a reason, and she was not going back.
It was late morning when Antonia stepped out of the cottage doorway to find the whole camp being packed up.
"Harper! What is going on?" She asked as the Sergeant Major passed by the doorway.
"We are returning to Lord Wellington today Miss Antonia." Harper replied.
Antonia looked up to see her father coming towards her, leading her horse.
"Aguja!" She exclaimed, caressing the gelding's head.
"You named him Aguja?" Sharpe stared at her, wondering if she knew it was what her mother had been called.
"Yes, he is fast and intelligent, and can fit into the smallest of spaces, just like a needle. He is probably one of the fastest horses in Spain."
Sharpe decided her would not tell her about her mother. "Lord Wellington has ordered us to return to his camp, we are setting off immediately."
"Yes, Harper informed me. How long shall it take to him?" The young girl questioned, as she grabbed the front of Aguja's saddle, preparing to mount.
A few days, we aim to stay tonight at a village called Ripoll, there is a monastery there." Sharpe held out his hand to help her up, but before he could, she had swung up into the saddle and seated herself comfortably.
Antonia arranged her skirts, and Sharpe lead Aguja where the rest of the regiment were preparing to march.
"You will be at the back, Patrick shall lead you." He told her, handing the reins to Harper's son, who had appeared by his side.
" 'Morning Antonia." Patrick beamed up at her.
"Good Morning Patrick." Antonia grinned back. She liked Patrick, he had a good sense of humour.
The group set off from the village at a steady pace, crossing the large plateau, and into a thick set of trees. Antonia was deep in conversation with Patrick when Hagman jogged over to them.
"Miss Antonia, where did you encounter the French soldiers yesterday?" He asked.
"About two miles back from that large tree over there, on the other side of the ridge." She pointed out the direction she had come in just the day before. "They had a small camp of about fifteen, but I could not get a good look."
Hagman nodded at her and jogged back to the front of the procession to report to Sharpe.
"Do you think the French will come for us?" Patrick looked up at her.
"We are going in the opposite direction from them, but they may have seen us before we reached these trees. It depends whether they have or not, Father does not seem worried though." Reflected Antonia.
"Sharpe is hardly ever worried, he is always a step ahead of the French." Patrick remarked. "I don't think much can phase him."
Antonia smiled to herself, yes that was her father, and she had found him.
They continued on for a while in silence, but suddenly Antonia heard hoof beats behind her. Looking up to see French galloping in from behind, she wheeled Aguja around on his hind legs, and held her hand down to Patrick, who was still standing beside her. He took her hand and she pulled him up onto the back of her horse.
Without a thought, she withdrew a pistol from her cloak, and loaded it. A French officer was within shooting range, so she aimed and shot at him. He caught the bullet to his chest and keeled over.
At the front of the procession, Sharpe heard the shot ringing out and turned to see Antonia pointing her pistol at a dead French soldier.
"Rifleman!" He shouted, jumping behind a boulder and loading his rifle.
Harper, Hagman and Harris followed his lead, each taking aim at the oncoming French, and shooting.
Antonia thrust another pistol into Patrick's hand. He looked down at it in awe. "Miss, I- I've never shot a gun before." He stammered.
"Just aim it at one of those bloody French and shoot it!" She shouted, it's easy enough."
Patrick fumbled with the pistol, and held it up, he took aim at a soldier, and pulled the trigger. He got the man in his thigh, and looked at Antonia, but she was guiding Aguja through the steadily growing mass of bodies.
On either side of Sharpe, Harper and Harris were shooting, reloading, and shooting again. A few feet away, through the dust, he could make out the shape of a black horse rushing forward, and he knew it was his daughter.
Antonia was hurriedly reloading her pistol, and riding hard at a Frenchman who was on foot. Young Patrick Harper was sitting behind her, hanging on tight. As they gained on the man, Patrick pointed a small pistol at him, and shot the man in the arm. He doubled over in pain, and Antonia quickly grabbed his sword from it's hilt, using it to stab him through the stomach.
The dust suddenly cleared, and Sharpe could see that the French were all dead. He stood up and looked around at the bodies that scattered the ground. Hagman was crouching beside the first Frenchman Antonia had killed.
"She got him straight in the heart, straight through." He announced.
Sharpe stopped suddenly, and glanced around. "Where is she?"
He looked over the area for his daughter, who seemed to be gone.
A few yards away Harper was standing with Young Patrick, who was holding tight to Aguja's reins, but there was no sign of Antonia.
"Antonia!" He called out, holding his breath and waiting for a reply.
Out of a thicket of trees to their left, a dirty Frenchman came out, backing towards them. Appearing behind him, with a pistol pointed to his forehead, was Antonia Sharpe.
"You're a coward." She spat. "No decent soldier runs from a fight."
The man kept backing away, until he was just a few feet from Sharpe.
"S'il vous plait!" The man begged, tripping and falling at Sharpe's feet. He looked up at the man behind him, "Je me rends! Je me rends!" He put his hands up in defeat.
Antonia lowered the pistol, but did not put it away.
"Harris, tie him up." Sharpe ordered, and Harris came forward, pulling the man up and taking him away.
Sharpe turned to Antonia, "The only time I have ever seen a female fight like you did then, was when I have been with your mother."
Antonia smiled a sad, whimsical smile. She wished she could have known her mother. Many people had told her that she was very much like her in personality, but she wished she could see that for herself.
"Are you alright?" Said Sharpe, noticing her expression.
"Oh yes, none of them so much as touched me." She hastily busied herself with mounting Aguja.
Sharpe frowned, that was not what he had meant, and he was sure Antonia knew that, but she was not going to say a word more. He turned and went about setting his men in order.
"Come on men, don't muck around." He called, "fall in."