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Authors: Rob Griffith

For Our Liberty

BOOK: For Our Liberty
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Contents

Title

Dedication

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Author's Note

For Our Liberty

by

Rob Griffith

For Thomas & Eleanor

“We must recollect... what it is we have at stake, what it is we have to contend for. It is for our property, it is for our liberty, it is for our independence, nay for our existence as a nation; it is for our character, it is for our very name as Englishmen, it is for everything dear and valuable to man on this side of the grave.”

Speech by William Pitt
 

on the resumption with war with France in 1803.

Copyright © 2013 Rob Griffith

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

First Published 2009

This Revised Edition 2013

CHAPTER ONE

I awoke that morning cold, naked, and regretting the night before. My head throbbed and my stomach was sour and rebellious, but that wasn’t unusual. I drew the thin sheet around me and was surprised to see a second pair of legs. They were, it must be declared, very shapely legs. I have always prided myself on having a well-turned calf but these were as smooth as alabaster and perfectly formed.
 

I followed the legs up to their natural and somewhat goose-pimpled conclusion. Again, I had to admit that they were an exceedingly fine pair of buttocks and I was disappointed that the sheet interrupted my examination of the woman asleep beside me. The thin shafts of sunlight coming through the shutters fell across one bare and very enticing shoulder, half covered by the cascade of midnight black curls that also fell across her face. I could see the tiny hairs on her neck standing erect in the cold, a single mole the only blemish on her skin. Of her countenance I could see nothing and I never would. I was destined not to even know her name. Not then, or now, could I even recall meeting her and, as you will see, events intervened before introductions could be made.

I sat up gently, not wanting to wake my bedmate – that could wait. I had more pressing needs. My mouth was as dry as the Nubian Desert. I was in dire want of water or perhaps just some small beer; it would be safer than the water after all. I put a tentative leg on the cold oak floor and slid slowly from beneath the sheet.
 

The ceiling was low and sharply angled, the walls rough and whitewashed. An attic room. I searched the dim chamber but there was no evidence of drink of any kind, although there was plenty of evidence that someone, probably me, and possibly my recumbent companion, had indeed drunk rather a lot the night before. Clothes were strewn over the floor in a state that suggested not only rapid, but also somewhat clumsy disrobing. One arm of my coat lay in the chamber pot, which wouldn’t have been so bad but one of us had made use of said pot during the night.

Apart from a cheap pine dressing table and the small bed there was no other furniture and nothing to drink. I endeavoured to remember the night before and the girl, but only managed a vague recollection of the sixth bottle of port wine. The girl’s clothes were not those of a lady and my eyes flicked to the top of the table. I was relieved to see that I had not left any coins there so with a bit of luck it had been a night of romance rather than commerce. Looking down at my own goose-pimpled body, I concluded that it was a less than stirring sight; cold never showing a man’s physique at its best. If the girl wakened she would not be that impressed with her previous night’s catch. I thought it best to put some clothes on. I found my linen and breeches and attempted to dress myself quietly. The girl must still have been intoxicated not to stir as I cursed and hopped about the room.
 

I had pulled my shirt over my head and was struggling with my boots when I heard the rhythmic steps of soldiers outside. When a guttural French voice commanded the file to stop it sounded as if they were right beneath the window. I crept over, half opened the shutters and stuck my head out. It was a spring day as only Paris can make them; clear, bright and with a gentle sun that warms the very soul. The sounds of the awakening city came from the street below; rattling bakers’ carts, the clatter of the milk girls, and the shouts and laughter of the delivery boys taking their time to get back to their shops. A soft breeze brought the scents of a Paris spring; horse manure, smoke from thousands of fires, open sewers and garlic from countless kitchens. Across the roofs and between the smoking chimneys I could just see Notre Dame and guessed I was somewhere south of the river.
 

Three storeys beneath me were about ten blue-coated municipal guards, the recently created Paris police. A figure in a grey cloak gestured at one of the guards, presumably the corporal or sergeant, who disappeared from view. The man in grey took off his black hat and looked up. He wasn’t overly tall but he carried himself as though he was. He had dark hair with a shadow of stubble. He saw me and I ducked back inside.

A very insistent knocking echoed through the house. The girl still did not stir. Were we alone in the building? Doubtful. I thought it prudent just to ignore them. Someone else would answer. The girl’s parents perhaps? That wasn’t a pleasant notion. Maybe her employer? That was better, she wouldn’t be the first maid I’d bedded, but as I looked at her once more I thought she was certainly the most appealing. The corporal knocked again, even more persistently. An old woman shouted in rather crude French that she was coming. I breathed again and tiptoed to the door; I could return to my quest for a drink. I had nothing to fear from the municipal guards. I had committed no crime. Not lately.

I opened the latch as quietly as I could and the door creaked inwards. There was a small landing, two other doors and a staircase. I stepped softly over to the banister and looked down. The sound of the old woman arguing with the corporal floated up from the ground floor. I leant further out, very gingerly since the banister felt as if it could give way at any moment. I couldn’t see anyone else below but it was then that I heard the squeak of a floorboard behind me. I turned, expecting to at last see the girl only partly covered by a hastily wrapped sheet and with an inviting smile on her lips, but instead I found myself looking at a naked man holding a very large pistol. He wasn’t smiling invitingly either.
 

“Morning,” he said with a slight and indefinable accent. He was English but with a hint of Irish perhaps, or something northern softened by time abroad.

“Morning,” I replied. Conditioned by years of etiquette both of us were treating the meeting as if we had happened to pass one another in St James’s.

The corporal had either convinced the old woman to let his men in or had just pushed her out of the way because the sound of many boots began to shatter the quiet household. There were shouts, curses and crashing furniture.

“Damnation,” said my unclothed compatriot. “I’ll be on my way then. Pleasure meeting you.” He turned and went back into one of the other rooms, and then popped his head out. “Might be an idea to make yourself scarce. We’re at war with France again and Bonaparte has ordered all Englishmen arrested.”

The news we were back at war with France came as a bit of a shock. Yes, I know now that the peace signed at Amiens little more than a year previously had been as fragile as I felt that morning but I hadn’t really been moving in diplomatic circles or reading the newspapers.
 

The sound of heavily booted feet was coming ever closer and I was getting a mite perturbed. The common soldiery in full flood is apt not to ask too many questions before skewering you with a bayonet. I dashed back into the attic room, picked up my coat, wrung out the sleeve and kissed the girl lightly on that very tempting shoulder. She smelled of lavender.

Back on the landing I was flummoxed. Down was out of the question and the other rooms did not look as though they would offer any greater degree of safety. It was then that my pistol-wielding countryman appeared again.

“Would you mind...?” he said as he gestured behind him.

“Certainly,” I replied. I followed him back into his room which was slightly bigger than the girl’s, or would have been had he not pulled a wardrobe into the middle of it. He closed the door and motioned me to grab the other side. Between us we then toppled the wardrobe over until it wedged the door shut with a splintering crash. Fine, I thought, now we are definitely trapped. That will teach me to trust the judgement of a very polite but probably half mad man purely because he is English. He was kicking the wall opposite the door in quite a brutal manner. He had, incidentally, put some clothes on by that point and the huge brass blunderbuss pistol was stuffed, somewhat perilously I thought, into his trousers.

“Come on, man. The wall will only be paper-thin. We can get through to the next house!”

I finally caught on to what he was trying to do and started giving the wall a damn good kicking too. It didn’t last long. The plaster cracked and crumbled to reveal the wattle beneath. A couple more kicks and a section fell into the room beyond. Just in time too, since there were shouts coming from outside and musket butts had begun to pound the door. I heard a girl’s scream and stopped. I hoped those bastards wouldn’t harm her, or worse. The screams only lasted a couple of seconds and I judged them appropriate for injured modesty but thankfully nothing more.

My companion in peril had crawled through the wall and was hissing at me to follow. I didn’t need to be asked twice. The room was much like the previous one, only shabbier. We dashed out onto the landing and into an exceptionally startled old man in a night-shirt. We apologised for the wall as we ran down the stairs two at a time. My new friend stopped at the ground floor and we tried to get our bearings. I was about to head for the front door when my escort grabbed my arm, drew his pistol again, and dragged me to the back. We ran through a small yard, scattering chickens as we went, and then clambered over a wall before dropping a few feet into an alley. We were both breathing hard and leant forwards for a few moments, hands on knees, trying to get our breath back.

BOOK: For Our Liberty
2.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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