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Another side of the coin?

The King's Shilling

"Colonel Doyle, we've caught a spy!"
          Waving the excited young ensign aside, the colonel set down his mug of ale on the table and abandoning his meal languidly walked to where two troopers were dragging a third man towards him. "Well, what have we here?"
          The man, clearly a Roundhead, managed to regain his feet and shouldering the troopers aside straightened up to glare at the Cavalier. It wasn't the first time Will Bodie had come face to face with one of the King's godless supporters but this one was arrayed in such finery as to be worthy of the King himself.
          The mustard colour of his coat marked him as a commander in Rawdon's Regiment of Foot, but further resemblance to a soldier ended there. Burnished buckles shone on his shoes, dainty frills peeped from his cuffs and the curved brim of the hat perched jauntily atop of curly brown tresses was furnished with a long feather. The long sword hanging at his belt might have been purely for show; yet it seemed to have seen recent use. Green eyes set in a lean face stared back at Will Bodie, twinkling with what might have been amusement in different circumstances. "Well, puritan, what have you to say?"
          He could not claim to be an innocent farmer from the area, Colonel Doyle reflected. The man wore a red coat and russet trousers, the uniform of the Earl of Stamford's regiment within the New Model Army, and the regiment that his own troop had been in a skirmish with just three days ago. To be so close to their encampment, he had to be a spy. The gaze from the dark-blue eyes was full of hatred; a fact that bothered Colonel Doyle not at all. Even if he weren't proficient with his sword, the unarmed Roundhead would not get close enough to harm him.
          "I've nothing to say to such as thee. The right of the Lord will prevail to strike down all heathen dogs."
          The Cavalier laughed, as the Roundhead's words gained him little but blows and kicks from the flanking troopers for the insult to their commander. He turned, dismissing the now-prone soldier. "Ensign, have him secured somewhere. I will question him later, once I have finished eating."

From his position, tethered in the open like a horse or cow to the makeshift paddock rail, Will Bodie could see the Cavalier colonel. Sprawled in his chair, ale in one hand and a willing doxy in the other; the colonel was laughing with the captain of his regiment, as he enjoyed his meal.
          His own stomach growled, reminding Will it was hours since he'd broken his fast. But he would not even beg for a drink of water; he wouldn't give any of them the satisfaction. Silently he vowed revenge on the colonel.
          Although he could see no way of achieving such vengeance. Even if Will could free himself from the ropes binding him, he was in the heart of the Cavalier encampment and escape would be difficult. Any attempt to attack the man at the centre of everyone's attention would be impossible.
          As he watched Will saw the captain rise, gesturing to several troopers and sending them in his direction, and only a few minutes later he was standing in front of the colonel. "So, puritan. If you came to spy then perhaps you would be better suited to another profession."
          Those stood around him laughed, and Will Bodie gritted his teeth. "I am a soldier, not a spy."
          "And you think you're more suited for that? My men took you with ease," the colonel sneered.
          "Only by force of numbers." Will knew to his own satisfaction that several of the Cavalier troop bore evidence of his resistance. "T'was no fair fight. But I would expect nothing else from you."
          "What I expect from you, however, is information." The colonel leant forward in his seat. "Where are your troop encamped and how many do they number? What plans has your commander?"
          "You'll get nothing from me." Hands still tied, Will lunged forward and caught the colonel a glancing blow before the troopers could restrain him, watching with glee as the chair overbalanced backwards and deposited the colonel, struggling, on the grass. There were howls of laughter on all sides and it was a sight to remember, worth the punches and kicks that followed, leaving Will kneeling, gasping for air.
          The front of his tunic gripped in a strong fist, Will Bodie was wrenched upright, his face only a few inches from that of the infuriated and humiliated Cavalier. "I'll not be made a fool of. T'is clear you are a spy and you will be shot."
          Throwing the insolent Roundhead to the ground, Colonel Doyle called to his deputy. "Organise a firing squad. The sooner this one is despatched to his maker, the better."
          The men hurried to carry out his orders and the colonel watched in grim satisfaction as within a few short minutes muskets were filled and primed and six of the best men were arranged in a semi-circle, aiming and ready to fire at his command. Ahead, the sole focus of their weapons, the puritan stood bravely upright, lips moving, probably in prayer.
          The colonel glanced around him. All were hanging on his word. Drawing from his pocket a lacy kerchief, Colonel Doyle raised it in one hand - and swiftly whisked it down.
          Muskets fired; the Roundhead dropped.
          "So shall perish all who oppose their rightful King!" Cheers resounded in support of Colonel Doyle and the Cavalier cause.

Two troopers hurried to collect the body and dragged it away to a tent. A few minutes later the colonel entered, and stood regarding the soldier, grudging admiration on his face.
          The corpse wiped mud from his face and spoke. "A nice day out in the country, he says. You've no idea how grateful Nancy will be, he says. Nothing about dressing up and getting nine bells knocked out of me! So help me, Doyle, this is positively the last time you ever talk me into anything again...!"

© Carol Good - May 2003

The English Civil War is one of my favourite periods in history. You can read about the sort of re-enactment I envisioned here at the Sealed Knot website.