Despite Albert’s reassurance that everything was going to be all right, Toby was afraid to go near the stream. He would now give it a wide berth on his ramblings through the grassy paddocks, on his way to gather berries.
Uppli, as always was bounding ahead, frolicking in the warm sweet clover. Not a care in the world as his beloved master was right there, so he too, was filled with happiness. He could sense however, that Toby had a reluctance to go near the embankment. He would give the stream, now a mere trickle a narrow stare.
Albert was never far from the boy. Tom had asked him to keep a sharp eye over the lad until he found his feet once again. Molly on the other hand was a different story. On a crystal clear night, stars radiant in the moonlight, Molly suddenly bolted upright.
Tom blearily rubbed his eyes as he was woken by the startled Molly.
“Tom!” she sobbed. “It’s Toby. Please Tom, please go to him?”
Immediately, Tom leapt out of bed, leaving the security and warmth of the goose down covers, his feet hitting the icy floor, drawing his being to an alert sharpness.
Awake and focused, Tom made his way to Toby’s bedroom. The door was ajar, there was no little whimper and the room was bathed in an eerie stillness.
“Toby,” whispered Tom. “Toby, where are you boy?”
He could clearly make out through the distorted surroundings that the lad had not slept in his bed.
There was no Uppli either. Tom remained calm, after all, he had fought in the Great War and he knew how to remain focused in the advent of fear.
It was an overwhelming consternation that engulfed him!
“Tom!” yelled Molly. “Tom! Is my boy there?”
“Everything will be fine my love,” replied Tom, heart pounding with anxiety, but with a calmness in his voice that reassured Molly.
Tom grabbed his army issue trench coat and for good measure, his trusted Purdey side-by-side self-opening side lock shot gun, a gift from Henry Royce who had once said, “Strive for perfection in everything. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.”
Tom scooped a number of cartridges from the tattered box in the hallway cupboard and emptied them into his coat pockets. Just for good measure, he loaded both barrels, then scooped another handful and put them in his trouser pockets.
Of course, he wasn’t expecting any trouble, but still ever vigilant, he was prepared. Slipping out to the cottage, he heard the sounds of the night.. Still and calm, even the smallest creature stepping on a twig was amplified.
Tom slowly surveyed the darkness, lit occasionally by the effulgence of the blood moon now commanding the night sky. Cloud prevented him from having the vision he longed for, but Tom was a resourceful and clever man. His fighting days had taught him that.
It was during the battle of Shaiba, on that April day in 1915, where Tom, a Captain with the 7th Hariana Lancers, followed Major George Godfrey Massy Wheeler onward into battle.
Wheeler had led his squadron into the midst of the enemy who rained their firepower upon these brave souls.
He ordered his officers to advance, drawing the enemy out from the hidden ground where the Royal Artillery was able to train their guns on this enemy’s infantry and annihilate them.
The next day, Major Wheeler led his squadron to the attack of the North Mound. He was seen far ahead of his men, riding straight for the enemy’s standards, but was killed in the attack.
Tom was one of the surviving officers and wrote an account of Wheelers bravery. As a result of his written account, Major Wheeler received a posthumous VC.
The 7th Hariana Lancers was a cavalry regiment in the British Indian Army. It was formed in 1846 and in 1921 was amalgamated with the 6th King Edward’s Own Cavalry to form the 18th King Edward’s Own Cavalry.
In December 1919 the regiment moved to Mesopotamia, landing at Basra on December 31. They served here until July 1920 when it returned to India, returning to its depot as Risalpur on July 12.
Tom had a loyal and trusted Sargent, Pandit Singh. His grandfather and father had both fought proudly with the 7th Hariana Lancers, so it was fitting that Pandit Singh followed them.
His mother was proud of her husband and would often say: “Pandit you have to wear giant socks to put your feet in your Pithaa and Baap’s Juttis!”
Suddenly, Tom’s very silence was shattered!
Author’s note: This is entirely a work of fiction.
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