by Clio

Part 3

Over the next three days the temperature steadily dropped, until finally
the fourth day dawned with rain and blustery winds from the north. It
blew over tents and caught everyone unawares. The roads became quagmires
and after a day of hauling artillery out of the mud a general halt was
ordered to wait the storm out.
By the time the storm blew itself out Private Martin Andrews was in a
serious quandary. His colonel, for whom he had a strong, if
unaccountable, affection, had fallen into a pattern of alternating chills
and fever. The fever was always worst in the evenings, so Edrington had
taken to retreating to his tent as soon as the march was halted.
Eyebrows were starting to be raised among the men, who could not
understand this withdrawal by a commander who had previously been more
than willing to interact with them.

Voices were also starting to rumble in the officer's mess. Major Harlan
was the most vocal in asserting what he called Edrington's unfitness for
command. Although most of the other officers were aware that Harlan was
motivated solely by his bitterness at being passed over for command of
the 86th, many were themselves beginning to question.

Which was why Andrews was pacing the camp, debating his best course of
action. He knew that the talk and gossip about Edrington would soon
spread throughout the entire army - perhaps all the way to Wellington -
and his first instinct was to protect his colonel. But he had to weigh
that against Colonel Edrington's own wishes, which had been clearly, if
rather harshly expressed the first day that he had been ill. "I don't
want anyone to know. It'll pass." he had said that first evening as
sweat beaded his forehead and upper lip. "You breathe one word of this
to anyone, Andrews, and I'll have your head on a silver platter, served
up for dinner!" he had continued before falling into a restless sleep.

That was four days ago, and Andrews had been debating with himself every
one of those days. But tonight was the worst. Edrington had dismissed
his orderly with a surly growl shortly after camp had been made, saying
he could manage on his own. Some fifteen minutes later Andrews had
looked into the colonel's tent to find him lying on his cot, staring
straight overhead, face clenched in a grimace of pain. The cause of the
pain was immediately apparent in the fresh bloodstains on his shirt.

Edrington had seen the look on Andrews' face. "Don't even consider it,
Andrews. I'll be fine in a moment."

"But sir...."

"NO! I don't need any help! And if all you're going to do is stand there
and gape then get out!" Whereupon Andrews had ducked under the flap and
left the tent as fast as if the hounds of hell were in pursuit.

He had been walking blindly, unaware if his surroundings until he walked
into an extremely solid form. A strong arm reached out to steady him,
and a stridently Cockney voice spoke.

"'Ere! What's your 'urry, young fellow?"

Andrews had recoiled from his collision with the man, and now he took a
step back to appraise his companion. In the glow from the fire he seemed
to be almost square; a short, squat, barrel chested man with arms as
thick as tree branches. He wore a leather apron, smelled vaguely of
smoke and hot metal, and he carried a heavy iron hammer in his hand.

Even in his distracted state Andrews was able to piece together all those
clues. A farrier! He had wandered into the cavalry camp! A possible
solution to his dilemma occurred to him in a flash of inspiration. He
looked around quickly before turning back to the farrier.

"Excuse me." he said. "Could you tell me where I might find Captain

The other man grinned, turned his head and spat towards his fire. "The
'Onourable? I can take you to 'im." He paused to set his hammer down
and remove his apron. "What would you be wanting the Captain for?"

Andrews hesitated, on the brink of telling the whole story, but then
decided on a half-truth. "His brother needs to see him." was all he

"You serve with 'Is Lordship, the colonel?" the farrier asked as he began
to walk away. "My name's Farleigh, by the way." And he extended a soot
blackened hand, which Andrews shook with some trepidation.

"Andrews" he replied.

Farleigh looked at the younger man carefully, sizing him up. "You don't
sound like a Cornishman, Andrews." Andrews shook his head. "What are
ye doing in a Cornish regiment, then?"

"I've served with Lord Edrington for nearly five years. When he was
given command of the 86th he arranged for me to be transferred with him."

Farleigh nodded as if Andrews' words had confirmed something. "'E's a
good man, is the Colonel. Not like your ordinary commander in this God
forsaken army!"

"You know him?"

"Mostly by reputation." Farleigh admitted. "They say 'e's not a flogger,
and that 'e treats even the lowliest skivvy with respect. That makes 'im
a good man, and a better commander. Earl or no." he finished with a

They had arrived by a tent at the end of a row then. Farleigh put out a
hand and opened the flaps slightly.

"Captain Edrington, sir? There's a young man 'ere to see you." He
smiled slightly at Andrews. "Come from yer brother, sir."

"From my brother?" came a disembodied voice from inside the tent. It was
quickly followed by the tall cavalry captain, who burst through the
opening in the tent with his usual quickness. He had taken off his
jacket, and in the half-light of the lantern behind him he seemed even
larger than Andrews had remembered. The orderly took a step back,
feeling almost overwhelmed. All he could do was stare beseechingly at
the captain.

"Andrews? What are you doing here? Has something happened...?" William
stopped speaking when he saw the look in Andrews' eyes. Without another
word he spun away, went back into the tent and then emerged again,
swinging his jacket over his shoulders. "Come on." he said. "It'll save
time if you tell me on the way." And he set off at a brisk pace, his
long legs making short work of the distance.

Andrews practically had to jog to keep up with William's longer strides.
As they walked he breathlessly told the captain as much as he could about
the situation. By the time they reached the edge of the 86th Cornwall's
camp William was walking even faster, seething, and mumbling under his

"Always so independent.... Can't ever ask anybody for help.... Who does
he think he is.... I don't know how Sarah puts up with him...." were the
only words that Andrews caught as he trotted to keep up with the other
man's longer strides.

They attracted a great deal of attention as they made their way to the
commander's tent, so that by the time they arrived they were trailing a
crowd of men. Andrews made a careful note of the fact that not a single
officer of the 86th seemed interested in all the commotion. It seemed
that not one of them cared in the least. But it was obvious that the
enlisted men cared, and cared a great deal, despite the discontented
grumbling of the past few days.

William was completely oblivious to the attention he was attracting. He
had known as soon as he saw Andrews' face that something was amiss with
his brother. As they had walked and the orderly had filled him in on the
situation, William had felt his concern turn to anger, and his anger
become alarm. If it had reached the point where Andrews was willing to
blatantly disobey an order, it must indeed be serious.

When they reached the tent William thrust aside the flaps and went in
without another word. There was a brief silence, then he came back out.
His face was pale.

"Fetch Sergeant Owen." he said to Andrews. "Quickly!"

Andrews ran to do Captain Edrington's bidding. His flight through the
camp did not go unnoticed, and by the time he returned with Owen in tow a
substantial crowd had gathered in front of the tent. The men murmured
amongst themselves, careful not to be overheard by the few officers that
were present. Major Harlan was noticeably absent.

Sergeant Owen pushed his way unceremoniously through the crowd, intent
only on reaching the colonel. When he reached the tent entrance he
turned to the crowd, addressing himself to the enlisted men.

"You men! Move it along!" he shouted. "Nothing here for you!" And under
his breath to Andrews "Keep them away. The last thing the colonel needs
is a bunch of fools hovering." and he turned and entered the tent.

William sat alongside his brother's bed, anxiously watching each breath
the elder Edrington took. His face was drawn and worried. He didn't
turn around when Owen entered, he simply said "I didn't know he was ill.
Why didn't he tell me?", quietly, as if to himself.

The cause of the colonel's collapse was immediately apparent to Owen.
The fresh blood that stained his shirt, as well as the unhealthy flush of
his skin told the tale. He stepped forward and carefully, with William's
help, eased the unconscious Edrington out of the shirt. With a decisive
nod and a grunt he surveyed the wound on his commander's shoulder. It
had broken open and was bleeding afresh. The bandage was saturated.
When he removed the sodden bandage a rank odor rose from the wound.

"Christ!" William exclaimed, clapping a hand over his mouth and turning
away from the bed. "What the bloody hell happened?" he asked once he had
regained his breath.

Owen didn't bother to answer. He went straight to Edrington's trunk and
began rooting around in it, searching for brandy, wine, rum - anything.
He found nothing.

"Andrews!" he shouted. The orderly poked his head under the tent flap.
"Go to the officer's mess and bring me the oldest bottles of wine you can
find. Ones that are opened already. Do you understand?"

Andrews nodded and departed. Owen turned back to the cot on which his
commander lay. As he did he saw that Edrington's eyes were now opened,
glittering with fever and staring into the blankness of the canvas above
him. He laid a hand against the colonel's face; it was hot and dry. He
went back to the trunk and took out every blanket that was there. As he
piled them on top of Edrington he turned to William to offer a curt
explanation for his actions.

"The wound's gone bad and he's feverish. We'll have to sweat it out of

William swallowed hard and looked at his brother's flushed, staring face.
Even as he watched the eyelids fluttered down, shielding the intense
brown gaze.

"Will he be all right?" William asked, whispering.

Owen didn't answer right away, being busy with his tending. He had taken
the bowl of water that stood on the desk and was washing away the dried
and crusted blood that surrounded Edrington's wound. As it came clean he
could clearly see the red streaks under the skin. They were not too far
along, and he prayed that the treatment would be in time.

William was about to repeat his question when Owen turned and replied.
"If I can get the wound clean, and his fever down, he'll be fine." He
turned and glanced toward the tent opening. "Where the blazes is Andrews
with that wine?" he exclaimed just as Andrews ducked under the flap and
entered the tent, carrying three half-empty bottles of wine.

"They're the oldest bottles I could find." he said, out of breath. "I
tasted them, and its horrid!"

Owen took hold of one of the bottles, pulled the cork with his teeth, and
took a healthy drink. He grimaced and spit the wine out, accidentally
staining William's snowy white breeches. Neither man cared. He quickly
poured some of the wine directly onto the wound. Edrington hissed and
cringed away in response, but did not regain consciousness. He ripped up
one of the colonel's clean shirts and used part of it to freshly bandage
the wound. When he was finished he met William's gaze.

"Stay with him. I'll be outside for a moment, and I'll sleep here until
I know he's out of danger." And he nodded to Andrews to accompany him.

Once outside Owen wasted no time. "Bloody hell Private! What were you
thinking? Why didn't you tell me he was feeling ill? How long has he
been like this?"

Andrews was thoroughly chastised; he stared at the ground, unwilling to
meet Owen's eyes as he replied. "Its been four days, nearly five. But I
couldn't tell you! He ordered me not to!" he cried out, nearly in tears.

Owen sighed heavily. When he next spoke his voice was calmer, and he
reached out a hand to Andrews' shoulder to comfort the other man. "I
understand. He's a proud man and wouldn't want the help." He smiled
slightly. "Luckily, Captain Edrington has no such scruples!" He looked
into the orderly's anxious face and knew it would be useless to dismiss
him; he wouldn't go far. He nodded once in decision.

"You'll stay here with me, Private. Together we'll see to it that we
don't lose this fine commander of ours."

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