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Authors: Judith B. Glad

Tags: #19th Century, #England, #marriage, #Regency, #Regency Romance, #Romance

A Pitiful Remnant

BOOK: A Pitiful Remnant
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A Pitiful Remnant

A Regency Novella

 

By

Judith B. Glad

 

 

Uncial Press       Aloha, Oregon
2015
 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
events described herein are products of the author's
imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations,
organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-200-1

A Pitiful Remnant
Copyright ©
2015 by Judith B. Glad

Cover design © Copyright 2015 by Judith B. Glad
Countryside Manor
House:© Khrizmo | Dreamstime.com
Soldiers:
© Bronwyn Photo

All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the
reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in
any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now
known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written
permission of the publisher.

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including
infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is
punishable by up to five (5) years in federal prison and a fine of
$250,000.

Published by Uncial Press,
an imprint of GCT,
Inc.

Visit us at
http://www.uncialpress.com

Prologue
Southeastern Yorkshire,
Late January, 1809

"Good morning, Grandfather. You sent for me?"

Her grandfather's expression was more serious than usual
as he tapped the newspaper on his desktop. "I'm afraid it's bad
news."

He had to say no more. "Captain Foxworth?" The words
came out a bare whisper, for all the breath seemed to have left her
body.

"Yes. His name is in the latest casualty list from Spain." His
voice shook. "A terrible battle...a victory for England, but..." As if
unable to go on, he handed her the newspaper.

Tears blurred her vision, but she knew. Lisanor let the
newspaper slide to the floor. "What will we do?"

"I don't know. If only--"

"Grandfather, you must not continue to blame yourself for
my father's follies. You were ill, too ill to be troubled with estate
management. If there is fault, it is mine. I paid no attention--"

"How could you? I have never burdened you with financial
matters. Bad enough I used you as bailiff, allowed you to labor like
a...a serf."

"I did nothing you did not do at my age. How many times
have you told me that we Hights are yeomen, not peers? Ackerslea
Farm is my heritage. I can only learn how to best manage it by
working at every task, no matter how menial."

"But I could have kept your father on a tighter rein. We are
facing disaster. And it is my fault."

Grandfather's heart seizure two years past had forced him
to relinquish much of the management of Ackerslea Farm to his only
son. At first all had been well, but after the harvest her father had
gone to London, ostensibly to attend the opera and theatre with old
friends, men from his carefree bachelor days. He had renewed his
acquaintance with the expensive crowd surrounding the prince and,
instead of returning to his duties at home, he had reverted to old
habits, living extravagantly, spending lavishly, and gaming wildly.
Only after his death in a curricle accident this past October had they
learned that he had not only squandered the farm's income, but also
had spent monies intended for seed and supplies. Even worse, he
had given vowels against Ackerslea Farm's future income.

"If there is a fault, it is my father's." She hated to speak ill of
the dead, but her father's reckless improvidence would affect
everyone at Ackerslea Farm for some years, as they struggled to pay
creditors and to recoup the financial loss.

"Mine was the final responsibility." Grandfather sounded
tired, defeated. "And now we must somehow find another man for
you to wed."

"Must we?"

"I fear so. While I have no doubt of your competence, the
reality of the matter is that alone you will be vulnerable. You need a
husband whom the world will see as the master here, no matter that
it will be a fiction."

"Where will you ever find another man who will be willing
to accept your terms? The concessions Captain Foxworth insisted
upon were close to ruinous." She had protested strongly when
Grandfather revealed that Foxworth had demanded a generous
allowance, and a munificent payment for each male child he fathered
on her. But finding a man who would yield total control of the Farm
to a mere woman went against the grain of most men.
All men, I
think,
but those words she left unspoken.

"I have an idea. If it comes to fruition, I will tell you."

Chapter One
Northern Lincolnshire,
March, 1809

The sling chafed the back of his neck and the fingers of his
right hand refused to work. His breathing was impaired by the
wrappings around his chest, the splint on his leg meant he couldn't
walk properly, and his arse hurt like bloody hell.
Might as well be
dead.

Major Clarence Lamberton knew he was indulging in
self-pity, but somehow any sense of shame eluded him.

The action had gone on far longer than he'd been capable of
fighting. According to the sailors he'd overheard, Coruña was
being called a terrible defeat for the British, even though they had
won the battle. And had lost it, too, for General Sir John Moore had
been killed. Now the ships were carrying the remnants of the British
army back to England. Pitiful remnants they were, too. Fully half of
the remaining men had taken an injury of one sort or another. And
the rest were exhausted and disheartened.

I should be with my men. They need me.

His commanding officer had ignored his arguments and sent
him off on a boat with other injured officers.

At least he'd been spared the stinking dark of the hold. His
pallet on the deck was only somewhat shielded from spume and
drizzle by tattered canvas stretched from rail to rail. He might be
damp, but he could see a small slice of the shore of England, slowly
growing visible in the mist.

England. Home.

God, how he had missed Guillemot's Burn. But would he be
welcome when he got there? In his last letter--
good lord, that was
in October
--his father had threatened to cut off his allowance if
he didn't sell out. But duty had been a stronger bond than family.
Besides, he had nowhere to spend the money.

The wounded were loaded onto wagons for the journey to
London. But before they set out, a command to halt came back along
the line. They waited, shivering in the damp coastal air, until a man
on horseback appeared.

A man he recognized, even through the film of pain that
darkened his vision. Nettles. His sergeant, when he'd had a platoon
to command.

"Major Lamberton?"

He pretended not to hear.

Faint hope. Someone near the tailgate called, "He's here. Up
front." The mounted man commanded his minions to "Fetch the
major, but be gentle."

The journey home used to be long, but this time it happened
in mere hours. Or at least that's what his mind told him when he
woke as they were carrying him up the stairs. Familiar stairs leading
to a bedchamber he'd last slept in eight years ago. "My lord, the
doctor will be here soon," Carleton said.

Carleton? Why was a footman taking care of him?

For a long time after that, nothing made sense. Carleton
continued to speak to him--kept calling him 'my lord' which made no
sense at all. An old woman who vaguely resembled his mother came
to sit beside his bed and weep, until he wanted to tell her to go away
and irrigate some other floor. His sister, she of the bright golden hair
and lilting voice, never came to visit. That was how he knew it was
all a dream. Phillipa would never leave him to Mother's tears or a
doctor's callous ministerings. But hadn't Phillipa married that
Scotsman? MacIvers? And gone off to live in the Highlands?
I can't
remember.

"My lord, can you sit?"

"Father? Is that you?"

"My lord, your father--"

"Oh, my poor Clarence. Has no one told you?" Again the
weepy woman was there beside his bed, watering the floor,
dampening his bed linens.

"Madam, his lordship needs undisturbed rest, else he may
not recover."

Maybe the doctor wasn't so callous after all.

"My lord, let me hold this cup..."

The tea burned his lower lip, and he turned his head. Then it
burned his chest.

"He can't manage a cup, you fool. Get a sauceboat. We'll have
to pour it into him."

The next time he woke, he had his wits about him enough to
look around. The room was familiar.
Am I home? At Guillemot?
How...

"My lord, are you awake?"

It was Carleton again. But this Carleton was older, more
dignified. Dressed as a butler, not in a footman's livery. "Why?" was
all he could manage, but his fingers caught at the man's jacket and
tugged.

"Oh, my lord, you've your wits about you at last. I must call
my lady." And before he could ask the questions that had barely
begun to phrase themselves in his mind, Carleton disappeared.

An interminable interval later, a very young footman
entered, bearing a steaming basin. He was followed by a silent older
woman in a maid's uniform who proceeded to strip him naked and
wash him all over. By the time she was done, both the water in the
basin and the skin on his body were chilled. He locked his jaw to
prevent the chattering of his teeth and waited for the next round of
torture.

Eventually, still shivering, he plummeted into sleep.

After an eternity in Hell, he woke in a place devoid of light.
No, there was a faint glimmer...under a door?

I'm weak as a newborn kitten.
He felt as if he were
caught in the depths of some thick, clinging substance, one which
limited his motion and weighed down his limbs. His left leg was
wrapped in something stiff and heavy, his left wrist bore a thick,
equally stiff bandage. And the pain in his arse was worse than
ever.

"Carleton?"

The croak that emerged from his throat bore no semblance
to a human voice. He swallowed, or tried to, but his mouth seemed
lined with the clinging, arid dust that had coated everything during
summer's heat in the peninsula.

He collapsed back onto the bed--for he lay in a real bed, not
upon the hard pallet that had served him during the last weeks in
Spain. The sheets under him and over him were fine linen, not the
coarse fabric he'd grown used to. They were scented with something
besides human sweat. Lavender? He couldn't recall what lavender
smelled like, but the word sounded right for the soothing floral
perfume. And there was a pillow behind his head. A soft, down
pillow.

I've died and gone to heaven.
No. Impossible. There
was no place in heaven for him, or any of his troops. Not after
Coruña.

"Carleton," he called again, but this time it was a mere
whisper.

No one answered.

A dark, squarish shape sat beside the bed. Atop it was
something that glinted faintly. He groped, and his hand struck
something hard. When he swept it forward, the object went flying
and landed with a satisfying crash on the floor.

Footsteps sounded outside the door, and then it swung
open. "My lord?" Carleton stood silhouetted in the doorway, a
candlestick in his hand. Behind him, blessed God, was Nettles.

"Sergeant." This time the word was almost
recognizable.

"Aye, Major? What can I get ye?"

"Water." A mere whisper of sound.

Carleton came closer and set the candlestick on the bedside
stand. "Here, my lord."

Clarence saw the pitcher and glass, just out of reach. "Need
light," he whispered.

"In course ye do," Sergeant Nettles said. "How's a man to see
when it's as dark as the inside of a horse's gut?" He elbowed Carleton
aside and poured the glass full of water. "Can ye sit, sor?"

Tears gathered in the corners of his eyes as he tried. "No,"
he gasped. "Help...me."

Nettles raised his head, held the glass to his lips. "Take it
slow, then, sor. Little sips. You don't want to cast it up."

Clarence had tasted fine French champagne, but at this
moment, he couldn't recall anything tasting as good as the tepid
water that moistened the dry tissues of his mouth and soothed the
sore lining of his throat. He sipped, again and again, until his head
fell back with exhaustion. As Nettles reached to set the glass aside, he
saw that he'd only taken about half of its contents. Yet his belly felt
full.

After that, he regained his strength quickly. It seemed to him
that every hour someone was bringing him small dishes filled with
gruel, and after a while, soft, creamy porridges and custards.
Gradually the bowls got bigger and the pap was replaced by meaty
broth, and yet later, by thick soups with pureed vegetables.

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