By Allan Mallinson

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It had been the narrowest of escapes, and he did not doubt that the last of it was yet to be heard. Hervey was by no means entirely comfortable back in the saddle for, expertly though his leg had been bandaged, it was not the place to be resting it. But this was nothing to how he was to feel when they reached the regiment. Corporal Collins’s dispatch had evidently been relayed through the ranks for there was loud cheering as they approached, and though he might well bask in that approval – for he had certainly had none from Edmonds – so loud and triumphant was the clamour that it must surely have carried across to Slade’s knoll.

They were dismounted and standing easy. Posted as vidette a furlong to their front, with a view into the valley beyond the ridge, was his picket Serjeant. And it was the sudden animation in that sentinel that alerted Hervey now. ’ he called, and his troopers began tightening girths before springing back into their saddles. Without an order the contact man – the picket corporal – galloped off to Serjeant Armstrong, who had by now worked his way in cover along the ridge and further to the flank. ’ pressed Hervey.

Just twenty thousand pounds for a baronetcy a couple of centuries earlier when King James had wanted money for his Irish army, he supposed, and one or two judicious marriages thereafter no doubt. Well, so be it: his father had been a professional soldier who had died in the American war while Edmonds was still a child, leaving nothing but the value of his commission with which his widow could buy an annuity. And he himself had chosen to marry a soldier’s daughter without a penny, either. A stoical smile almost overcame him, but another stab in his jaw made him grimace instead.

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