This is the eighth part of a ficion serial, in 826 words.
With much of the army away fighting in Europe, Josiah’s regiment was sent north with little preparation. Edinburgh had already fallen to the Scottish army led by Charles Stuart, and by the time Josiah’s regiment had crossed the border, there was news of Cope’s defeat by the Scots at Prestonpans. Captain Dakin was nervous indeed. Not only had he never been tested in battle, but with the exception of a few of his sergeants, all of his troops were inexperienced. News was that troops were being recalled from the continent, but that would take time. Meanwhile, the Scots had bypassed Josiah’s position, and invaded England. Josiah spent a nervous winter expecting to be engaged in combat at any time.
After going south as far as Derby, the Scots returned before Christmas, fearful of the large approaching force led by the Duke of Cumberland. As the new year was celebrated in camp, Josiah relaxed, considering himself lucky that the regiment had not been involved. Cumberland was determined to do battle though, and Josiah received orders to prepare his company for the journey north to Inverness. On a misrable cold wet day that April, his stomach turning somersaults with fear, Josiah found himself with the army on some bleak moorland at a place called Culloden.
He was nonetheless cheered by two things. The first was that the English outnumbered the Scots considerably, and also had cannon in numbers. The second was that his regiment was designated a position at the rear, to be called upon as reinforcements if necessary. The artillery exchange was brief but noisy, and soon followed by the ragged charge of the Scots, their advance slowed by the sodden ground of the boggy moorland. Straining to see through the smoke from the musket volleys, Josiah bit his lip as the front ranks clashed. Not knowing what else to do, he drew his sword, if only to appear ready to fight.
But no order came to advance. The Scots were soon wavering, and that later deteriorated into a flight from the battlefield. English troops and cavalry pursued the retreating Scots, inflicting many more casualties. But for a relieved Josiah, it seemed to be all over. Not one of his men had so much as fired a shot.
Following some more time encamped in the area, Josiah received two pieces of good news. His company was to be used to escort Jacobite prisoners back to captivity in the south. They were destined for prison hulks, floating in the Thames estuary close to his home. And when they returned to barracks, he was to be promoted to the rank of Major. Irrespective of the fact that he had not taken part in a single engagement, his presence in the campaign against the Scots was to be rewarded.
When he had handed over the prisoners as instructed, Josiah returned to barracks and instructed his tailor to make him some fine new uniforms, as befitting his elevated rank. He also purchased a large white stallion, so that he would look his best on parade. His previous dull brown horse had never seemed fine enough to him, and it appeared to have lost its wind after the long winter in Scotland. On a sunny morning, he set out to impress his fellow officers with a ride around the area, leaving them lagging behind as they raced across the nearby fields. But the stallion balked at a stone wall, and he was thrown forward out of the saddle.
Lieutenant Foxworth reached the major first, finding him dead from a snapped neck.
Arabella took the news with her usual resolute manner. She arranged the funeral at the town church, and it was attended by the Colonel of the regiment, along with many of his fellow officers. The Colonel told her that he would arrange for Percival to get a commission as soon as he was of age, and with Justin soon ready to leave for college, she reflected that the house would feel empty by the end of the following year.
That December, a letter arrived from the boat yard manager. He had been approached with an offer to buy the business. Arabella thought she should at least investigate, and made the journey to London in snowy weather to meet with her lawyers, and the potential buyer. The offer was more than she had imagined, and getting rid of the boat-building business made sense to her, with both Percival and Justin occupied with other matters. But Percival was now the heir, as the son of Josiah, and she had to seek his agreement to conclude the sale on his behalf.
Still excited by the prospect of a commission, and consumed with his interests at the local military school, Percival was happy to follow her advice. The agreement was signed, with the huge sum doubling the wealth of the Dakin family overnight.
Arabella was very happy. The future of both boys was assured.