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By allan mallison

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Private Johnson, Hervey’s groom, whose own lowly coup d’œil was every bit a match nevertheless for this delicate moment, had already brought up the black gelding. An uncomfortable, if localized, silence followed as Hervey limped across to where Lieutenant Regan stood, like a small dark cloud, in mute brooding. Without a word he stooped to pick up his sword, which lay, as in some allegory of dishonour, at Regan’s feet. The ADC said not a word, either: none was necessary, for his look said everything, none of it pleasant.

I am sorry, sir, that—’ tried Hervey when they had put some ground between themselves and the brigade commander. ’ snapped Edmonds, leaving Hervey to wonder from what precisely. Little purpose would have been served by his asking, however; for Edmonds had scant idea, either, only a sense of the need for divine providence. It had been the narrowest of escapes, and he did not doubt that the last of it was yet to be heard. Hervey was by no means entirely comfortable back in the saddle for, expertly though his leg had been bandaged, it was not the place to be resting it.

The difference was not just in the people but in the regiment’s history and traditions – the received notions of how things should be done, the esprit, the spirit. The 6th Light Dragoons are a fictitious regiment, but the events in which they take part are historical fact. The major characters outside the regiment are real figures of history. Occasional liberties have been taken – General Slade did not go to Ireland in 1814, for instance – but not in any way that changes the historical plausibility of the story.

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