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Authors: Edward Marston

Soldier of Fortune

BOOK: Soldier of Fortune
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Soldier of
Fortune

Edward Marston

 

 

First published in Great Britain
in 2008

by Allison & Busby Limited

13 Charlotte Mews

London WIT 4EJ

www.allisonandbusby.com

 

Copyright © 2008 by
EDWARD MARSTON

Edward Marston
was born and brought up in South Wales. A full-time writer for over thirty
years, he has worked in radio, film, television and the theatre, and is a
former Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association. Prolific and highly
successful, he is equally at home writing children's books or literary
criticism, plays or biographies, and the settings for his crime novels range
from the world of professional golf to the compilation of the Domesday Survey.
Soldier of Fortune
is his first book featuring Captain Daniel Rawson.

www.edwardmarston.com

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE
..
5

CHAPTER
ONE
..
8

CHAPTER
TWO
..
10

CHAPTER
THREE
..
13

CHAPTER
FOUR
..
16

CHAPTER
FIVE
..
19

CHAPTER
SIX
..
22

CHAPTER
SEVEN
..
25

CHAPTER EIGHT
..
28

CHAPTER NINE
..
32

CHAPTER TEN
...
36

CHAPTER ELEVEN
...
40

CHAPTER TWELVE
..
44

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
...
48

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
...
52

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
...
55

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

Saturday, July 4, 1685

 

Daniel
Rawson saw him at once. The boy was walking across a field with his dog,
Tinker, at his heels when he caught sight of a lone horseman coming over the
brow of the hill. He sensed that it must be his father and broke into a
spontaneous run. Thinking that they were playing a game, Tinker chased after
him, shooting past him then zigzagging crazily in his path. Daniel did not even
notice the animal. His gaze was fixed on the rider and his mind was racing. It
was almost three weeks since Nathan Rawson had left home to join the Duke of
Monmouth and it had been the longest and most agonising time of the boy's life.
Desperate to know how his father was faring with the rebel army, he had been
fed on nothing but rumour, lies and tittle-tattle. At last, he would learn the
truth.

Recognising
his son, Nathan kicked his horse into a gallop then raised an arm in greeting.
Daniel replied by waving both of his hands in the air and Tinker barked excitedly.
By the time that father and son finally met, the boy was panting for breath but
nevertheless able to blurt out a few words.

'Welcome
back, Father!'

'How
are you, lad?' said Nathan, reining in his horse and dismounting to embrace
him. 'Is all well here?'

'What
news?' Daniel gasped. 'Have the royal forces been put to flight? Has the King
been deposed? Have we won yet?'

Nathan
shook his head sadly. 'No, Dan. Not yet.'

'But
we
will
win - you promised me that we will.'

'And
we may still do so in time.'

'Where's
the army now?' asked Daniel.

'No
more questions until we get home,' said the other, holding him by the shoulders
to appraise him. 'Let me take a good look at you. I've missed you and your
mother so much.' Tinker barked in protest and Nathan smiled wearily. 'Yes, I
missed you as well, Tinker,' he added, patting the dog's head. 'I've missed you
all.'

Thrilled
to see his father once more, Daniel was at the same time distressed by his
appearance. Nathan Rawson was a big, broad-shouldered man in his late thirties
with the boundless energy that his son had inherited from him. There was no
sign of that energy now. He looked tired, dispirited and much older than when
he had left the farm to join a cause in which he fervently believed. In the
eyes of a ten-year old boy who worshipped him, his father had shrunk in size
and lost all of his buoyant self-confidence.

'Come
on,' said Nathan, trying to conceal his anxieties behind a warm grin. 'Let's
ride home together.'

'How
long will you be staying?'

'Only
until tomorrow - we've been granted furlough.'

'Mother
will be so pleased,' said Daniel.

'Then
let's not keep her waiting.'

Foot
in the stirrup, Nathan mounted the horse then offered his hand to his son.
Daniel was a sturdy boy but he was hauled up effortlessly to sit behind his
father. With the dog scampering beside them, they began to trot across the
fields in the afternoon sunshine, Daniel holding tightly on to his father with
a fierce pride that was tempered by desperation.

 

Juliana
Rawson was so delighted to see her husband return that she burst into tears and
lapsed back into her native language. Since he could speak Dutch more fluently
than his father, Daniel had a much clearer idea of what his mother was saying.
As his parents threw their arms around each other, the boy realised that they
needed some privacy. The most useful thing he could do was to stable the horse.
It was only when he was unsaddling the animal that he noticed the ugly gash
down one flank and the dried blood on its withers. His father had clearly seen
action.

Set
in the heart of Somerset, the farm was large enough to give them a comfortable
living yet small enough to employ a mere five labourers and two domestic
servants. Unlike some in the county, it had not been requisitioned by the rebel
army nor had its livestock plundered to feed hungry soldiers. It was ironic.
Nathan Rawson had abandoned his military career to get married and take up
farming. In the hope of putting the Duke of Monmouth on the throne, he had now
given up farming to follow the drum once more.

When
he got back to the house, Daniel found his parents in the kitchen, sitting side
by side at the table. The boy took a chair opposite them and hung on his
father's words. Because of his experience in combat, Nathan had been promoted
to the rank of captain and he was impressed by the men who served under him.

'They
lack nothing in courage,' he told them, 'and they come from all parts of the
West Country. We have miners from the Mendips, fishermen from the south,
wool-workers from Devon, mountain men from the Quantocks, graziers from
Bampton, wild marsh-men from Axbridge and hundreds of other stout-hearted
fellows ready to take up arms to rid the country of a Catholic tyrant.'

'There's
talk of deserters,' Daniel chipped in.

'Every
army has a few cowards who turn tail when the first shot is fired. We're better
off without them. Besides,' Nathan went on airily, 'we've recruited some
deserters ourselves from the royal ranks. They'd much rather serve King
Monmouth than labour under the yoke of King James.'

'But
where will it all end, Nathan?' asked Juliana worriedly.

'That's
in the laps of the gods, my love.'

'What
will happen to
you?'

'I'll
give a good account of myself in battle, have no fear.'

'What
about us?'

'You
and Dan must pray for our success.'

It
was not the reassuring answer that she needed and her face clouded. Juliana was
a comely woman in her thirties with vestiges of the youthful prettiness that
had first attracted Nathan Rawson. He had been fighting in the Netherlands at
the time and they had been on opposite sides. It was different now. Their
respective countries were at peace with each other and their marriage
symbolised the fact. She did not want her happiness to be shattered by warfare.

'Have
you killed anyone?' asked the boy, wide-eyed. .

'Daniel!'
scolded his mother.

'I
want to know.'

'The
lad has the right to be told,' said Nathan, subduing his wife with a hand on
her arm. 'Yes, Dan,' he added, turning to his son. 'I killed a man during a
skirmish at Norton St Philip and wounded two others. They attacked us hard that
day but we repulsed them in fine style. It was an important victory.'

'Ralph
Huckvale's father died at Norton St Philip.'

'We
were bound to suffer losses.'

'Ralph
went off to serve in his place,' said Daniel. 'He's only a few years older than
me. Why can't I join in the fight?'

'No!'
cried Juliana. 'I couldn't bear that.'

'You
must stay here, Dan,' said his father.

'But
you were a drummer boy at my age,' argued Daniel.

'That
was different.'

'I
need you here,' said Juliana. 'You must stay with me, Dan.'

'Listen
to your mother,' advised Nathan. 'Your job is to look after her and the farm.
When I go away, you're the man of the house. Always remember that.'

'Yes,
Father,' said the boy disconsolately.

'We
rely on you. Don't let us down.'

It
was a heavy responsibility to place on someone so young but, under other
circumstances, Daniel would have been glad to shoulder it. He never shirked a
challenge and always did his fair share of the chores on the farm. The problem,
in this case, was that he longed to be with his father, to join the rebel army
that had been formed with such enthusiasm when the Duke of Monmouth landed at
Lyme Regis. The bold and dashing James Scott was the illegitimate son of the
late Charles II but his followers believed that he was the rightful heir to the
throne. The idea of marching with the future King inspired Daniel. Life on the
farm offered many pleasures but it could not compare with the excitement of battle
and the feeling of taking part in a momentous event. Daniel yearned for glory.

Seeing
his disappointment, Nathan offered him recompense.

'If
you'd
really
like to help us...' he began.

Daniel
rallied. 'Yes, Father?'

'You
can sharpen my sword.'

He
indicated the weapon that lay across the other end of the table. Daniel
snatched it up willingly and rushed off to the outhouse where the whetstone was
kept. Watched by Tinker, he first cleaned the blade with an old rag then he
carefully sharpened it until its edges were like razors. He was exhilarated by
the thought that he was holding a sword that had killed an enemy and inflicted
wounds on other men. When his work was done, he could not resist taking part in
an imaginary fight, parrying blows from an invisible foe before beating him
back and thrusting the sword deep into his stomach. For a short while at least,
he was a member of the rebel army.

Nathan
decided to inspect the farm, going out into the fields to speak to each of his
men and to examine his small dairy herd. Daniel and Tinker accompanied him. At
first, the boy thought that his father was checking on what progress had been
made in his absence but, when it was all over, another thought occurred to him.
Nathan Rawson was taking leave of old friends, giving each of them a few kind
words by way of a last memory of him in case he never saw them again. Victory
was obviously in grave doubt. Daniel shuddered.

That
evening, Nathan tried to bring some comfort to his wife and child. Seated in
his favourite chair in the parlour, he talked to them between puffs on his clay
pipe and long sips of cider. He praised the Duke's skill as a military
commander and spoke highly of his deputy, Lord Grey of Warke, the only member
of the gentry in his ranks. He also stressed their numerical superiority over
the royal troops and county militias ranged against them. What he did not
mention was that their supporters in Scotland had been routed and that the
hoped for rising in Cheshire in the name of King Monmouth had failed to materialise.
A rebel force that had once expected to reach London within a week was still
pinned down in Somerset, licking its wounds and uncertain of its next move.

Cheered
by what he heard, Daniel was still apprehensive.

'They
say that the Earl of Feversham is a fine soldier,' he said.

'He
was
a fine soldier,' corrected Nathan, 'but that was before he was badly injured in
a house fire. He took a blow to the head that left him half the man he was. In
any case,' he continued, sitting up, 'the Earl of Feversham is a Frenchman. It
says much of King James that he chooses as a commander- in-chief a Roman
Catholic from across the Channel. That's something we fight against, lad - the
prospect that England will be at the mercy of foreigners.'

'I'm
a foreigner,' said Juliana.

'You're
also a zealous Protestant, my love.'

'But
I'm not English.'

'You're
my wife and that absolves you of any blame.'

'Tell
me about Lord Churchill,' said Daniel. 'You fought under him once, didn't you?
He's reckoned to be a good general.'

'Give
the man his due - he's the best of them.'

'Do
we have anyone to match him, Father?'

'To
match him and to put him to flight,' said Nathan before downing the last of his
cider in one long gulp. 'You can forget Lord Churchill and the Earl of
Feversham, lad. They are appointed to fight on his behalf while King James
skulks in London. Our ruler - King Monmouth - leads his men from the front like
a true soldier and that's why we'll prevail.'

They
were stirring words to carry off to bed and they rang in Daniel's ear for a
long time. Later, however, when he lay awake in his bed with Tinker curled up
on the floor beside him, he heard sounds from next door that were less
heartening. His parents were talking and, though he could not pick out their
exact words, he knew that they were having an argument of some sort. That, in
itself, was such a rare occurrence that it troubled him. His father's voice
became louder, mingling anger, bravado and regret, to be followed in due course
by his profuse apologies.

They
came too late to appease his wife. Juliana Rawson had sobbed throughout. As her
apprehension grew and her reproaches came more freely, she could hold back her
pain no longer. The last thing that Daniel heard before he fell asleep was the
sound of his mother crying her eyes out and begging her husband not to leave
her.

BOOK: Soldier of Fortune
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