A Close Run Thing - download pdf or read online

By allan mallison

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Hervey sighed again. ‘Serjeant Armstrong, if I encouraged you by my own—’But he was not allowed to finish. ’ And he grinned. Hervey could but hope that it might be thus. So much for his withering rebuke! But there was, at least, no good reason any longer why he should not take wine with his serjeant and, albeit without much sense of celebration, that is what he did – a copious quantity, in measures which Armstrong referred to as medicinal. And the Bordeaux was to have its medicinal effect, for Hervey slept until late the following morning.

But as evening drew on he became less composed, and by dusk he was as thoroughly agitated as he had been that morning. The temporary remitting of the toothache in the afternoon past, he was sorely vexed now by the general inertia. ’ he spat. Barrow and the trumpeter looked at each other, startled. Neither of them had quite heard every syllable but it sounded the vilest of curses. And it just might have been provoked by the sudden appearance of the brigade major (though in truth Edmonds had not seen him), who the adjutant now noticed was trotting across the regiment’s front.

Matthew Hervey was not invariably quick-tempered. Twenty-three years old, six years with the cavalry, most of it on active service, he still retained a surprising belief in humanity. But the proverbial wrath of the patient man could from time to time overwhelm his cautious instincts, a risky proclivity for an officer who valued his prospects: anyone who thought that survival in this war depended merely on fighting the enemy was naïve in the extreme. Jealousy, snobbery, intrigue and patronage were the preoccupations of men of ambition in the Marquess of Wellington’s army; and Hervey and others like him, decent officers with little but their ability to recommend them, were increasingly resentful of Wellington’s indifference to it all.

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A Close Run Thing by allan mallison


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