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Four Lives of Jane and the Gallant Hussar

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The evening shadows are lengthening as he returns home from the fields.  Around their cottage he sees young Edward and Kitty and Tom running and laughing.  Then he strides through the doorway, and takes his dear Jane in his arms as she stands readying the table.  After supper, they sit by the fire, and the children cry out for stories.  Tell us a story about when papa was a soldier!  And their mother smiles to herself and hugs each of them.  When I first saw your father, he was riding on a tall horse, and the sun was glittering on his sword.

 

***

 

Every morning at nine o’clock, he can be found sitting at his desk in her uncle’s offices.  He copies and checks and writes again.  At midday, he closes his desk and walks through the crowded streets to the chophouse.  Sometimes he hears the sound of many hooves on the paving stones, and looks up to see them.  The swords shining as always, the gold cords bright, and the pelisses hung just so.  On those days, his ledgers smell of black powder and blood.  Over the sound of pens scratching away, he can hear the screams of the horses and the thunder of cannons.

 

***

 

On Sundays, they walk to church.  She watches him shrug on his black waistcoat and jacket.  The gold braid on his blue coat always caught her eye as he rode past her parents’ gate.  She reaches up to adjust his neckcloth just – a – little.  She could see the care he had taken to arrange his pelisse on his shoulder as though it had just been thrown on.  She steps back to see that all is in order.  In the long year that she was locked away from him, she treasured every glimpse of his troop passing by.  He puts on his black hat and they step out into the street together.  As she watched them in their high plumed hats, she thought – come what may, I will be that gallant soldier’s wife.

 

***

 

She sits at the table, reading over the letter again.  His old friend from the regiment has written: We are to go out to France in a fortnight.  She has seen him turning over the letter in his hands and looking at his sword on the wall.  Once, she vowed to follow him anywhere, to leave behind friends and relations.  Instead, he has stayed with her, in her world of teas and books and dances.  Now, she thinks, she will follow him into his world of soldiers and battle, and show him just how bold her heart can be.