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Authors: S. J. Garland

Tags: #Historical, #Mystery

Scotch Rising

BOOK: Scotch Rising
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Scotch Rising

 

S J Garland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAPLE KAKAPO PUBLISHING

Napier, New Zealand

 

 

 

Title: Scotch Rising

Authors: S J Garland

Publisher: Maple Kakapo Limited

Address: 2069 Pakowhai Road, Napier, New Zealand, 4183

Format: Softcover

Publication Date: 5/2014

ISBN 978-0-473-28491-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Andy, it can’t be sunny every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

I have returned after ten long years to haunt these austere corridors. I was a boy seeking escape, pining for adventure and the wood-panelled walls, the smell of lyme soap have long lived in my memory, though if asked yesterday to describe the War Office, I would not have thought of these details. My head crowded with the adventure to come, the happiness of escape. I would not have noticed my present self. Sitting upon a simple polished wooden bench, waiting for an audience. My military career was about to end. I was too young, too foolish, far too caught up in my own self-importance and cleverness at my escape from calamity to know how it might end. My boyish heart could not accept my gladness at having it come to an end, even in the face of an uncertain future. I would be free.

The knuckles on my fists stand out white, opening my hands, I trace the familiar calluses, scars, the marks of my trade with my eyes. Being a soldier is everything I have known in my adult life. It existed in a space of neither here nor there, never meant to be for a man from such a station. At least an hour has past, the corridor is cold and I must keep shifting in order to ease the aching in my limbs. The anticipation of the confrontation is always worse than the actual event. I learned this in battle.

“Captain Clyde-Dalton.” Colonel Manners stood in the doorway to his office. I could glean nothing from his curt nod. He remained an efficient man. Who spoke with conviction and authority, I do not know of any soldier who has disobeyed any of his commands.

I stood stiffly and briefly stretched my shoulders before following Manners into his sanctuary, prepared from my last meeting to greet the Spartan formality of his office. Looking around, I spied a fire burning in the grate, a luxury for the old soldier in the mid-November weather. His clerk’s desk stood empty. This meeting would remain private, not a formal dishonourable discharge. Perhaps I might be able to sell my commission and quietly step away from this life.

Colonel Manners’ face, deeply marred by weathered lines, held many secrets. The broad planes of his chin and forehead commanded attention. A soldier by birth, just as his father had been born a soldier and fought in the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict England had endured. Jerking his head, he indicated I should sit as he poured two glasses of an amber liquid and pushed one heavily toward me, the glass dancing in the candlelight.

“I cannot say I imagined fate would bring you through my door in such a sorry state, my boy.” He drank deeply from the liquid, watching as I contemplated my own glass. “Your bald head, is it the result of some mourning ritual for your dead Indian wife?”

I held my breath as red mist distorted my vision, the bones in my knuckles showed through the skin, every muscle in my body tightened. I fought the urge to throw myself over the desk. I could feel my hands around the old man’s neck. They would be stiff, as they were now. I had killed too many to count. I could gladly kill one more. I mentally stumbled and finally caught the last of my control before it slithered away. I looked steadily into Manners’ face and saw not a disgusted or contemptuous look, but one of pity, of understanding.

Taking another pull from his glass. He set it down carefully. “I am happy to find not all the reports from the colonies are true. Indeed, I received a very disturbing letter.” Manners stared at me hoping for a nod to continue. I gave him no outward indication I even listened. He would continue at his own leisure, men of his rank took for granted others’ permission. “Your commanding officer reported your behaviour in the stocks as, let me take a minute, I do not want to get this wrong.” Manners scratched his head, momentarily dislodging his wig, “Right, you behaved as a man dead, neither moving nor eating, nor speaking when men of your acquaintance visited. In short your will to live effectively sapped from you, some thought you might be possessed by some evil native spirit.”

My teeth ground at the last comment. I had finally gathered my scattered thoughts to reply when Manners held up a hand. “Your rather fierce response to my probing leads me to believe otherwise and I can only be happy. If our mutual friend Mr Wick thought I might have permanently damaged you by sending you to the New World, I would have to look forward to many long and irritating monologues.” He poured himself another draught from the crystal decanter.

Colonel Manners did not engage in idle chatter to my own knowledge, others agreed. Whatever his game, he was straying from his normal course, but curiosity did not impede my need for this interview to be over. “Colonel Manners,” my voice rough. It was true I hardly spoke unless necessary. “No secret has been made of my wish to sell my commission, my time in the army is over. I have served my country for nearly ten years,” I shrugged. “I am not a soldier any more.”

“On the contrary, a better soldier and a better man would be hard to find in these precarious times.” Colonel Manners straightened from his desk. Now the reckoning I dreaded and anticipated all afternoon would take place. I held my breath in expectation.

“Your time in the New World is done, your incarceration in the military stocks has been generously regarded as time served for your attack on John March, Boston Militia Commander.” Manners studied my tense profile. I gleaned nothing from his demeanour. “Only a few are aware of your supposed marriage to the native girl, and it will remain thus. We have done this not only for your protection. As you appear to have forgotten you are a peer of the realm, but for our own, the army cannot be seen to endorse entanglements with the native population.”

I sat surprised. Though aware of scarcely anything important happening around me during the weeks I spent in the military stocks. It felt as though every man who peered between the metal bars stood privy to the secret I held for nearly five years. The one I was only a week away from revealing to the world. Guilt made me believe every man accused me of her death and I punished myself for it with every glance and every stare.

“However, your tenancy with the army has not come to an end. Indeed, England and I have need of your special talents. It is an unstable time for Her Majesty, Queen Anne. As you know, she has lately come to a throne, on the brink of a rebellion. We must not return to the evil days of civil war.” Manners’ brows reached his slate iron wig, demanding my understanding. I only felt numb.

Grasping at my resolve, my voice grew insistent. “I should think, Colonel, my performance and spectacular fall from grace would only serve as evidence contrary to my commitment to the army. In fact I shall tell you now. I will not take up the post. I wish to be discharged of my duties, I no longer have the will to carry them through!”

“What you wish or what you think, has not been within your own power since you walked out of my door and joined the regiment.” Manners stood and braced his hands on the desk, all attempts at civility gone. He became the avenging angel, the statesmen, the renowned military leader. “You will do as you’re damned well told, and I will have my way in this matter, Captain, or I will have you thrown back in the stocks and court-martialled. Your uncle may have turned a blind eye to your activities in the past. I do not believe he is likely to ignore a rather large black smudge over the family name brought about by an ungrateful nephew, far too cocksure for his own good.”

Mouth pressed in a firm line, I nodded to indicate I understood the threat clearly. On this day there would be no freedom from the army. I wanted to drink myself into oblivion, live in the darkest places of London. I needed to punish myself for the death of Onatah, my wife. Once the only future I could imagine. Now Manner’s will force me to relieve my torment for years to come.

Regaining his seat, Manners once again took up his glass. “You acquired a certain skill set while with your regiment. Unbeknownst even to your superiors, you successfully infiltrated the native population. Even going so far as to marry one of them, yet you remained steadfastly loyal to your country. It will be important for your survival to draw upon these skills, where I am sending you.” I leaned forward in my seat, curious despite myself. I do not want any part of this, my heart screamed. “The Act of Union put through Parliament this year effectively binds the Scots to us. We need to show those heathens we are watching their every move and there is no better way than through taxing their most precious commodity.” Manners held up his glass.

“Whisky,” surprise rang in my voice. It was not a tipple I enjoyed myself. Beer remained the drink of choice amongst soldiers, with anything stronger reserved for great victories or defeats.

“I have been reminded it is imperative to be seen to tax alcohol equally on both sides of the border. To aid in this endeavour, we are deploying soldiers, mostly clerks, to monitor alcohol production north of the border.” Manners leaned forward, suddenly intent. “It might be said I am dealing lightly with you, especially as men have been hanged for less than your recent transgressions. Fortunately for you, I want seasoned soldiers up there and I want reports. The old pretender, James Francis, has a following who would like nothing better than to see a Stuart back on the throne of England and Scotland.

The mention of danger to the Crown caught my interest. Manners knew how to goad soldiers into doing his bidding; here stood the successful commander, the same feeling of tension and excitement twisted in my guts. The way it had in Boston when the Colonel called in his special force. We would prepare for a raid against the French, the riskier the task, the more desirable the challenge. “How big a threat to the Crown? Surely, if there is a nest of vipers hiding in Scotland waiting for the old pretender, we can rouse them out with a small force?”

              “The enthusiasm I once spied in your person has appeared once again.” Manners smiled for the first time. “The treasury is severely low on funds. It has never recovered from Cromwell and his cronies. Nor did it fare much better under the opulent spending of recent monarchs, the present Queen included. A full-scale operation is out of the question under the present tightening of purse strings. The placement of highly gifted and men loyal to us is the lightest option for Parliament. You are a soldier, Clyde-Dalton. I do not pretend to know of your hurts, but I think a stint in the Highlands of Scotland will give you a chance to rethink your present circumstances. Besides, there may yet be a reconciliation with your uncle, or you could easily take your place in society without him.”

“As to my uncle, Colonel, I doubt greatly any reconciliation between us. The last contact I had with the man coincides with the first time I stepped into this office and it will stay exactly as it is. He has grown stubborn in his old age and it seems I am not impervious to the same effects – perhaps it is in our blood.” Sighing, I once again began to feel the burden of familial responsibility before physically shaking it from my shoulders and thinking of my new unwanted task.

Tossing a satchel of papers across his desk, Manners indicated the parcel with his chin. “These are your orders, information on the distilleries in your area, taxes, former yields, the owners, everything known of the operations, you are to report there by no later than two weeks, otherwise I’ll have the militia after you.” A thought crossed the other man’s brow. “And do not despair, rather than thinking of this as a curtailment to your plans to enjoy oblivion, think of it rather as a small interlude. Let us agree upon a year of service to me before I accept your resignation.”

“I will take my post straightaway.” Standing, I grabbed the parcel, heavier than I would have first thought, but still easily held in one hand. With the other, I downed the whisky, not letting its harsh burn affect the features on my face. “I will send word once I have arrived.”

“Goodbye, Clyde-Dalton, one year.” Manners shouted. I slammed the door on any further words. I thought it might be best to put some distance between this place and myself. Still stunned at the outcome, a quick look at the bench I previously occupied reminded me of my initial intentions. Boots ringing on the polished marble, I strode through the corridors of offices, labyrinths of ambition and fortitude, into my next life, weary and thin.

I went out into the deepening dusk, took a breath of air to clear my thoughts before regretting it. All manner of cooking stoves, bonfires and chimneys spewed forth their smudged air. I gagged at the unpleasant smell of sewage in the streets. Not having spent much time in London as a child or as a young adult, I never became accustomed to its rank odour, to the crush of humanity down cramped streets. It’s a far cry from Boston and I wonder what Onatah might have thought of such a place. I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head. Thoughts of her only brought sorrow and misery. The papers held loosely in one hand could make a welcome distraction, filled with information on my new, unwanted assignment. No point in railing over this unexpected fate. Colonel Manners possessed spies all over England, Europe, and the New World. Indeed, he had people positioned anywhere even a sniff of conspiracy might be found. A slip of paper from a grimy hand and Colonel Manners would have my whereabouts.

BOOK: Scotch Rising
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