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MISS DORNTON'S HERO
by Elisabeth Fairchild
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ISBN # 0-541-18070-4
A young woman in search of a hero is reminded that there is a dark side to heroism. Captain Dade, a war hero who rescues Miss Margaret Dornton from a mad dog, is referred to as Captain Dead because he has the dubious distinction of being the only one in his entire regiment to survive a charge in the battle of Waterloo. As Dade works out his feelings with regard to both the war and Miss Dornton, she in turn must deal with a trauma from her childhood and her growing love for the hero who thinks himself undeserving of such a title.
ROMANTIC TIMES Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Regency Novel of 1995
What the critics say:
4 1/2 STARS -- "Signet's rising star takes an impressive step forward in what promises to be a hugely successful career with this searing probe into a man's soul in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. ...Ms. Fairchild puts our hearts through the wringer... A Regency tour de force, this intensely moving novel is period fiction at its best.." - Melinda Helfer, ROMANTIC TIMES
"An exceptionaly good Regency by one of my favorite authors in the genre. Highly recommended.
- Karen Wheless, UNDER THE COVERS
The Waterloo battlefield, France
June 19, 1815
The first thing Captain Evelyn Dade heard as his consciousness swam up out of the dark weight of oblivion, was the voice of an Englishman and the groans of the injured and dying. The noises seemed oddly out of place. The last thing he remembered was his uncontrollable horse fairly wrenching his arms out of their sockets as he charged into the midst of a raging battle, his men on all sides. His ears still rang with their cries.
"Royals on!" they had roared. Ahead of them, just as fierce, the Scots had been shouting, "Scotland forever!" There were no more shouts--no more cracking gunfire, no thundering cannon, no shouted orders, no rattle of ball on shield, no shriek of rockets echoing the screams of those hit. There was only the weighty voice of this Englishman, the whisper of wind through the rye into which he had fallen, weak calls for water and the stomach-turning stench of death that hung like a heavy blanket, all around him.
Death figured strongly in his memory. Was this death? He had seen it coming on all sides, treading on all that stood in its path. Cannon fire and smoking musket ball, rearing horses and flashing bayonets--all the tools of death. In front of him, like ghosts in the thick fog of gunfire, the double rank of three hundred Scots Greys mounted on their trademark grey horses had plunged and tumbled under the assault. The Blues, on either side of him had been flung from the saddle by it. Young men he had known for a lifetime, young men he had known only days, young men in foreign colors whom he would never know -- all had been cut down in the midst of the deafening roar of death's approach. The screams of his men and their horses still rang in his ears, all going down in the waving field of rye, mouths working, blood spouting, eyes wide in the horror of confrontation.
Was he down too? He could not remember. All he had to give him clue was the insistent English voice and a dark, panicky weight in his gut that filled him with the sensation that no matter how dark his memories, reality was bleaker, blacker and completely in keeping with the heavy, bloody stench that imbued every pore of his being.
"Here lad, give us a smile," the voice grunted, "you've no need of it any more." Then there was a crack, crack, crack, as if bone were snapping as the voice went on. "There, that's a start. I do thank you for the pearlies. They've good company in this barrel. Scots Greys have gone in before you, and those of the Royals who went down beside you. Inniskillings too, and Frog infantry by the score. Brave lads all." The cracking sound again. "You may not have lived to see England again, sir, but rest assured, your grin shall go on charming the ladies, if only from some other man's mouth." A grunt and a crack. "Some Bond Street beau I'll be bound, who has rotted out his own pegs with too much wine and sweetmeats, shall be most happy to inherit these lovely teeth of yours. Now, I shall just gently close up your mouth, lad, and mum's the word all the way around. No chance you'll bite your tongue."
The one-sided conversation seemed a bit of madness. Could this be Hell? Dade's throat was thick with thirst, but he had not the strength to cry out for water. His eyes seemed glued shut. He could not pull them open. His legs were numb, immobile from the waist down, as though the great, dark, weighty smell of death pinned them in place.
A second voice grumbled. "Whyever do you go about talking to them in that cloth-headed fashion, Jess? There's none as will hear you, much less, answer. Just get cracking and be done with the bloody job. 'Ere's another one." Like the voice of a beautifully human angel, the remark came from directly overhead. "Gone down under 'is poor 'orse, he has. Blimey, the animal's got a great stinking hole in 'im."
Dade felt a hand on his face. He was not dead. This hand reeked of sweat and dirt and blood. Surely one did not recognize the odors of the living when one was dead.
Rough fingers fumbled with his lips.
"Cor! This un's got an effing good set of chompers
'ere, 'e does. But, I'll not be asking 'im to smile. 'is face is caked in blood, and a gruesome sight it would be were he to oblige me."
There was a laugh. The rude fingers pried open his mouth. They tasted of blood and gore and dirt. Offended by their liberty, Dade found within himself the required strength to bite down on the intrusive digits.
"Argh!" The hand backed away.
Dade managed to open one eye. A grimy face hung like a round-eyed moon above his. The man was not an angel at all. He was a corpse harvester, come to relieve him of his teeth. He held a tooth extractor, poised to plunge.
"I've still need of them," Dade whispered hoarsely.
A grin cracked the grimy face. "Well, scarper me. He's
a live one Jess, under all this blood, and an Englishman. Just come and see if he's not. Bit me hand, he did, rather than let me take his gnashers. Has need of them, 'e said. Has need of them. Ha-hah!"
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