Vice, Chapter 18: On the Battlefield, Waterloo
Copyright © Isabella Dalzell 2020. All RIghts Reserved.
The damp seeps through my rain bespattered cloak, thick and sturdy as it is, made of good Leicestershire wool; I am sodden to the skin. The soil around me is a thick morass of mud and water, the grain trampled and broken beneath us. There will be no harvest this year.
Nathan was unsuccessful in his attempt to light a fire, so we've had no tea to drink and nothing to drive out the cold and the wet. We marched from Quatre Bras, where we were unsuccessful in driving off the French. Now we await orders in this godforsaken field. The storm is unrelenting and the march here was bad enough, along that muddy track that passes for a road, cannons stuck in the quagmire, immovable, had to be abandoned.
No use waiting for sleep, all we can do is endure the rain and wait for morning. At least we got here before the French. Will we see Boney, I wonder? That scourge of Europe knows a trick or two about fighting, but they say he is tired and ill now; seen supping outside a tavern, yellow and sleepy like an old dog. Can't wait to see some action, proper battlefield fighting, none of this skirmishing and dodging through villages.
Nathan seems calm enough, seen enough action in his time. I've been watching him, he's a good Sergeant and I take my cue from him. Not seen Wellington yet either; they say he's a good commander, stern and cold but fair. Follow him anywhere, some of these Peninsular veterans. Indeed, they already have, through most of Portugal and Spain, and parts of France, too. Seen some rare fighting, I’ll be bound. Nothing will shake their loyalty. Not stuck in a God-forsaken field with the rain pouring down.
Reminds me of that time Dada came looking for me, when I wandered off after him in the storm. A fierce night that was, thought I'd never be found. Sat in that damned tree nearly all night, sodden and frightened and then I saw Papa coming out of the mist riding that black horse of his. Clipper, yes, Clipper, that was his name. Never been so glad to see Dada’s smiling face in my life.
The way he hauled me up with one arm onto the back of that great stallion and sat me behind him on the saddle, and me clinging onto him to for dear life all the way home. Wonder if he's looking for me now. Wouldn't put it past him, always wanting to be in the thick of the action, carrying that physic bag of his, seeing if he can be of help. Wouldn't I be glad to see him now? Perhaps he could staunch this wound in my side, bloods' leaking all over my britches. Thought it would have stopped by now. Wonder what will happen tomorrow. I've written my letters to Dada and Mama, and one to that pretty girl, the Colonel's daughter, Irene. Ah yes, Renee. So tired. Renee, my love, come and kiss me goodnight. And that's a thought to die on. Completely out of my reach, of course, but hell, if you're going to die, might as well reach for the stars.