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 02nd May; Your round, or mine?
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:34 PM
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Hagman followed Williams and Cotton into the tavern. It looked even more run down than the one he had met the two men at the previous day. But he hadn't expected any differently from the redcoat, he thought to himself. He was in high spirits anyway and just wanted to celebrate Cotton's victory with a decent amount of brandy, some nice company and a song or two.

They found themselves a cosy table and Williams had a lookout for the girl.
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Gabriel Cotton
 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:34 PM
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Cotton sat there with his rifle propped up and resting in the crook of his arm.

"That was the closest thing I think I've ever seen," he said, glad that the other man hadn't gone into a sulk or something over losing. "I never thought I'd beat the best shot of the Chosen Men."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:34 PM
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Hagman leaned back in his chair as he waited for the girl to come to their table. He looked at Cotton and studied the young man's expression. He still seemed like one who couldn't believe his luck... or rather his abilities.

He grinned at him. "Aye, it was pretty close. You and your lass did damn well out there, Cotton. And it seems I found my match today. You'd make a damn fine Chosen Man, let me tell ya."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:35 PM
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The girl seemed to remember him. She called him "Wheel" or that's what it sounded like, which would do. He could hardly claim to have sweet-talked her, when he was here before: she had only a couple of words of English, and they were 'Wine' and 'Brandy', and he spoke no Portuguese. But a smile, and a handful of coins had brought him more than a chilled glass of wine, and it seemed likely that his luck still held.

He looked across at the Riflemen, who were still going over the competition, shot by shot. And they said he talked too much! He caught the girl - Maria, that was it! - and kissed her before sending her off with the brandy, while he leaned against the cracked marble counter. He had seen Hagman's face at the state of the place. But as they said, it had been a really good place, before the Earthquake, fifty years ago.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:36 PM
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Hagman took the two mugs of brandy from the girl Williams had send over to the table. He thanked her and handed one to Cotton.

"To you, Mr. Cotton, best shot in Lisbon!"

He took a deep gulp from the brandy. "This last shot of yours was amazing. And your lass is in good shape."
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Gabriel Cotton
 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:36 PM
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"Thank 'ee." Cotton took a mouthful of his own brandy. "Aye, she'm a beauty. I take care of her, and she's never let me down."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:36 PM
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Maria had gone back into the little cookroom behind the bar, with a dark glance full of promise at Williams. A smell of garlic and herbs and fish was making his mouth water. He drank the brandy and wandered back to the two Riflemen.

"I wouldn't swap either of your lasses for mine," he said, pulling up a third chair to the table. "They can't cook, they can't kiss and they don't run a tidy little business. Don't you ever think about the other sort of young woman?" He lifted the mug to his lips, watching them carefully over the top. "Brown Bess is all very well in her place, but that's in the square, not in the town on a night out."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:37 PM
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Williams coming back to their table shook the two riflemen from their talk about the shooting competition, techniques and rifles.
Hagman looked at him in disbelieve at first, then remembered that Williams was confined to use a musket and couldn't possibly understand their love for the wooden lady as them muskets were all very well but nothing compared to a rifle.

He grinned at Cotton, seeing the same understanding in the young man's face. They really seemed to be made of the same wood.

He turned back to Williams. "As you say, there's a different lady for different things and everyone has her merits. One keeps ya warm an' the other keeps ya alive. So ya better care for them both."
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Gabriel Cotton
 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:37 PM
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"A musket's a musket. But there's summat about a rifle you'll not understand without you handle one, and get to know her," Cotton said. "And they lasses are bonny enough, but I'm fine just a-setting here with me rifle, a cup and a good mate. If'n you wants a good time, we won't stop you."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:38 PM
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"Oh, I'll be having that later. When the girl's finished with her cooking and cleaning and all."

Williams wondered if he were getting the brush-off - did Riflemen really think that a rifle was as much fun to cuddle as a live, willing woman? Nothing could match that sensation. But perhaps the youngster hadn't really thought about it.

"You can have both, lad, but you've got to put one down before you can pick the other up." He grinned at the double meaning. "And there's more things to talk about to your mates than shooting and killing Frogs."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:38 PM
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Hagman looked at Cotton and Williams in mock astonishment. "Seriously lad, there is? I wonder what he means..."

Not being able to keep it up long he burst out laughing. " 'cause there is, Wiliams." He took up his mug and toasted to the two men. "To all them pretty lasses out there, be they made o' wood or flesh!" taking another draft of the brandy.

"What's your lass doing in the kitchen, mate? Any chance us gettin' something decent to eat, do ya reckon?"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:39 PM
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Willaims grinned back, relieved that Hagman seemed to come out of his rifle-bound mood.

"There will be fish fresh from the sea, and bread - which she doesn't actually cook herself, but is fresh from the ovens. There's a sauce she makes - lovely, it is, and I'm saying that as one who knows how good food should taste. When I first came out here, I cried out for the food I was used to. But unless you're going to eat only what the Commissariat provides - and that's donkey as like as not - then you have to venture out. And Maria, now she's a meal in herself."

He glanced towards the door and called out: "Maria, querida. More brandy por mis amigos."
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Gabriel Cotton
 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:39 PM
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"Ah, the food here ain't like what we had at home," Cotton said, holding his mug out for a refill. "But it's decent enough, for all that."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:40 PM
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"And why would we expect it to be?" Williams asked. "There's fish at home, and mutton when you can get it, and neaps - uh, turnips. But it still needs cooking, and for that you need a girl that you don't have to feed with powder and shot."

He leaned back in his chair. "When this is over, I'll settle down. And find a nice girl, who can cook and sew and keep house." Although Maria would not be able to understand him, he still checked that she had returned to the kitchen. "A decent girl, you understand - not a foreign woman."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:49 PM
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Hagman looked at Williams. He wasn't sure what to make of the guy. He seemed quite alright sometimes but some of his remarks just made him wonder.

Still cheerful but with a slightly challenging tone he asked "And were would you settle down then, Williams, and find such a woman, who'd be willing to do all that for ya and not run away after the first day?"

He took a sip from his brandy and watched Williams closely, curious how the lad would react.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:50 PM
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Williams was aware of the challenge in Hagman's voice.

"When I get back home, with my pockets jingling with gold, and a commendation from our Colonel, they'll be lining up to court me. And I'd buy me a farm in the valleys, and she'd be content enough there, with me to keep her warm at night."

He grinned at him. "And yourself, Rifleman, will you be looking for a sweet woman one day, or will your lethal lass always come first?"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:50 PM
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Hagman couldn't help laughing at Williams' words about girls lining up for him, gold or not.

"Aye, that they'll do and you'll be bloody busy not spending all your gold on pretty dresses an' stuff before one o' them's going to keep ya bed warm at night."
He took another mouthful of brandy. This lad was a hell of a bugger he was sure by now. But he didn't mind him as he seemed quite a guy for a joke or two and he was in the mood for that.

"I've found meself me two mistresses all right, Williams. The one's here with me..." he patted his rifle affectionately at the words "... and the other one'll be there when I come home. And they'll never grudge the one what the other has o' me."

He leaned back in his chair and let his thoughts fly for a moment to England. He was wondering how his Beth was faring. It's a long time since he took the shilling...
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:51 PM
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Williams saw the man's expression change. Sooner or later it hit them all - the memory of home. But he hadn't seen his own hills for far too long. And it looked as if the way there lay across drier, browner mountains and less welcoming valleys.

"How come you left her, then, and you running off to find a new love with the Rifles?"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:51 PM
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Williams' words shook him from his reverie.

"Sometimes ya don't have a choice. It was either the King's shilling or the gallows for me. So I 'listed and marched over the hills and far away from me Beth."

He sighed and drank some more brandy. He didn't want to get too much into a melancholy mood now. The day was too bright for that and there were enough lonely nights lying ahead of them.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:52 PM
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It was a familiar story. Williams wondered what the older man had done - it could be almost anything, but it was not a question he could put, particularly to someone he had only just met.

He leaned back, and grinned. "Well, I think you made the right choice. A woman who will be there when you get home - that could be something to look forward to."

He crossed to the counter and brought back the brandy. Hagman was clearly descending into sadness, and that would never do. "Have some more of this, and shall I tell you how I came to join?"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:52 PM
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Hagman grinned at Williams lopsidedly. "Aye, she'll be there, always has been. She's probably glad to have me out of her way for some time."

Gladly he took the offered brandy from Williams. "So tell me then, why did you leave all them pretty girls, lad?"

Not doubting that Williams had an entertaining story in store he sat back and helped himself to more brandy.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:53 PM
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Williams let himself drop into the rhythm of his father's speech.

"It was like this, see. Back home, I looked after sheep - not my sheep, mind you, but the Englishman's sheep. And the Englishman's wife. That was where the trouble started." He grinned. "She was a pretty lass, but not - discreet enough, you understand. Quite what she said, I don't know. But it was no longer comfortable there. So I left. I thought I'd make for Scotland. There are sheep in Scotland."

He paused, watching the other man. There were indeed sheep in Scotland, these days. And he had seen enough of them. But that wasn't the story he was telling.

"And that was when I saw the recruiting sergeant, and he persuaded me that I could be a fine soldier in a fine red uniform, and that all I had to do was sign his bit of paper. The sheep - and the girls - would be there for me when I came back. So I signed, and took his shilling." He shuddered theatrically. "I should have driven a harder bargain, see."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:54 PM
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Hagman listened curiously to Williams story. At him going on about sheep he raised his eyebrows in slight bewilderment but let it slip as he wasn't sure he really wanted to know what the crazy bugger meant by that.

"That a true story, Williams, you an' the Englishman's wife?" He chuckled. "Then the King's shilling saved your bony arse as it did me neck. Let's just see that it won't get us killed so we'll be able ta go home to all them pretty lasses..." he hesitated for a moment, then added with a broad grin "...and ya to them sheep."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:54 PM
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"Sheep!" Williams spat in disgust. "Don't talk to me about sheep!"

"I was a shepherd, see. Working for my father. But he didn't own the land, or the sheep, and when he died... I found work. Had to. It would have been hard on my mother, else. But she died, too, God rest her soul. And I thought: sod the sheep - not literally mind." He grinned again, good humour restoring itself. "And that's the truth, Hagman. Though the bit about the Englishman's wife is true too."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 04:55 PM
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With some astonishment Hagman observed the Private's sudden rant and was glad that it didn't last long. 'That's some temper this one has there' he thought to himself and wondered again which part of the story was really true.

Not bothering with the this kind of thoughts any further he raised his mug of brandy taking a decent gulp.
He turned around to look at Cotton who'd been fairly quiet for some time now.

"What do ya reckon when the General'll be here in Lisbon? Should be any day now, eh? It's bloody time they show up here if there's some progress to be made in this war."
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