Amidst the backdrop of Napoleonic War raging across Europe, soldiers seek distraction from the horrors of the battle field. Major Grant is an officer of the British Army serving under Wellington in France. An officer, a gentleman and a connoisseur of female bottoms, Major Grant finds himself unusually captivated by a mysterious woman…..
Saturday morning arrived and the sky gave me reason to think that the damp may affect the men’s powder. The sky however could not dampen my mood as I dressed in high boots and long coat. I chose a hat of royal blue to match my breeches. A dandy figure by no means! I laughed at myself in the mirror for being so vain. Having breakfasted I checked my watch for the fifth time in as many minutes and stepped outside of the barracks. My driver was a cheerful fellow and took me to the address on the paper I had been given. Having travelled for some fifteen minutes we arrived a smart town house in a mews off Bleak Street. The faces of two young girls were at the window as I alighted from the cab. As I approached the door the faces disappeared and reappeared having opened the door before I could knock. “Good day Major Grant” said the elder of the two and both curtseyed. I returned the compliment by bowing theatrically for effect. When I arose, Eleanor was stood behind her daughters in the doorway displaying a smile that I would carry with me all my life. The children at once busied their Mother from the house and tailing behind came a small boy who became immediately preoccupied with the horse pulling the cab. “He adores horses” came a whisper in my ear. Very little was spoken between us as we travelled in the cab. I instructed the cabby to allow the young man to ride atop which from the look upon their faces was a first for both. The girls, however, were full of questions as to the number of French I had killed over the years. I smiled and attempted to reel off as many French names that I could conjure up. Eventually I gave in and allowed the children to continue with the list for they appeared to have a greater knowledge of France than I.
The day was a resounding success. The young officers had arranged for local acrobats to perform for the children and a bear was produced in a cage wearing a Fez. The Catering Corps at the request of the Colonel had provided an enormous picnic that was housed under a large bell tent. How much money had been raised that day I shall never know as more donations were offered long after the official count. The event was brought to a close by the fall of rain that had threatened proceedings all day. I took charge of a jig and transported Eleanor and her children home in the pouring rain. I had fashioned a blanket to protect the children from the cold and borrowed a guard’s overcoat for her. The streets were generally deserted even along Oxford Street from where I would shortly turn off. We arrived at the small town house and removing the blanket covering the children, all were asleep. I requested that Eleanor call for her staff to assist with the children, this however was not to be as the housekeeper would not return until morning. I carried all three children inside and placed them on their beds for their mother to attend to them. Having found the kitchen I noted that the housekeeper was of clear mind as a large billie of water sat steaming on the range. I removed some water from the fire and added it to two small cups along with splashes of brandy from my flask. I wrestled with my wet overcoat and waistcoat to feel the benefit of the kitchen’s heat and settled on a wooden stool. Shortly she returned from her children still dressed in the army overcoat. The large buttons proved to be a challenge as the heavy material of the coat has taken on water and the slots were swollen. She dropped her arms exasperated with her efforts and looked at the floor smiling. She resembled a street orphan dressed in clothes to large with her hair damp, half secured. “Would you be kind enough to help me?” she said. I smiled, placed my cup down and walked across the kitchen. I undid the buttons of the coat and helped it off her shoulders. The coat was heavy and in response she lifted her arms up as if to fly. She turned and said, “How do you wear such garment?” I confessed that only men of the line wore such a coat and perhaps my officer’s cape would have been more suitable if available. She laughed and made me promise to return the coat to the owner on my return to the barracks. I said I would, as he was sure to need it in France. “You’re going to France?” She asked alarmed. “Yes, tomorrow.” I replied. She walked to the window and looking up at the street she sighed. “Why is there this connection between us?” I asked, throwing caution to the wind. “There just is,” she said. “Our lives have crossed and we are attracted to one another, it is very simple. You are missing something from your life as am I, however I have attempted to fill that gap in my past and was found wanting. I do not believe a temporary arrangement is appropriate or what I need in my life.” She turned to look at me. “That does not distract from the fact that I find you attractive and you flatter me with the simplest of looks. Our current location scares me further as my desire is stronger that my resistance.” She smiled. We spoke for sometime, circular, frank discussions of affairs and of our lives, however the creeping itch of my skin in wet clothes brought me to my senses in the warm kitchen. I stood, donned my waistcoat and long coat, walked around the scrubbed kitchen table and kissed her hand. I had now realised the futility of the situation as did she and it was now time to leave.
The rain was still falling and my horse had resigned its self to the weather and stood head down. I patted him on the neck and apologised for not throwing a waxed sheet over him earlier. How it that horses always seem to know what is on your mind? I had sat upon horses in both the midst and aftermath of battle and each time my horse had always behaved with the same emotions as myself. I patted him once more and climbed up on my jig. From my high viewpoint I could see above the half drapes that covered her small windows. Eleanor was filling a copper bath in front of a fire that had just been lit. She reappeared in the kitchen basement window and proceeded laying the children’s clothes in front of the range. There she stopped, placed her hands on the back of a chair and dropped her head in thought.
Another excellent episode. Love the rain, a fitting metaphor.