Abuse

There was a great captain among the General’s armies, a Monsieur La Fiche, and well loved. On the field he rode a great black charger named “Primrose,” a handsome steed and cavalier dare to his men. Did not Shakespeare give Macbeth’s Porter the invitation to follow the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire? So too did La Fiche lead his men, willfully, and, it must be said, joyously, into the heat of battle. And was it not said of La Fiche and his men that there was the very bravest of the General’s elite? For each man followed La Fiche, rogue and devil alike, on his Primrose way. The sound of their raised voices outbawled the advancing army’s, combined with the General’s own. The shatter of cannon, the clatter of steel, rang to that lusty tune.

Captain La Fiche was found one night after a particularly brutal engagement, his squadron hacked away to a red shadow of its morning’s glory. He was leading Primrose around the bodies of the slain.

“Here, Primrose, here are the boys who followed your iron hooves. Here, my beauty, look at what your charge has wrought, in its wake good men, Du Champ et Luc. Bon chance, mes amis! Good luck on the field of heaven! Oh, Primrose. You are a devil! You have ground this dulcet field into an abattoir.”

At the field’s edge, La Fiche mounted the black charger. His lieutenant came to his side, to ask where the regiment would encamp.

La Fiche would drink until his spirit flared bright in his cold blue eyes. Now, seated above his lieutenant in the darkened field, the flanks and legs of his horse glossed by the slick moisture on the pounded blades of grass, he smiled his bawdiest leer. The smell of wine sheathed him in a ripe cloud; not the sour stench of the tavern clung to him but the heady vintage of the aristocratic cellars of their homeland, so far and underground. Not so far from the cavalry mashed into the wallows of the battlefield, it seemed. Some even appeared, in the flickering torchlight, to be crawling west, back to the motherland and her sweetness. La Fiche licked his lips.

He opened his vest. He tore the buttons to do so but he seemed to care not for his spangled decor. “Look here, Lieutenant,” he said. The lieutenant recoiled in fear. What had appeared to be a glimmering lapel was but the protrusion of a jagged fusil. It had buried itself in the captain’s breast, and beneath the vest his pale blouse was stained with a crimson wine none but the most ghoulish vintner might bottle.

“I will decamp over that horizon. I will neither abuse the surgeon to attend this mortality nor trouble what ragged fraction of my boys remain. I go the primrose way, one last time. Lieutenant,” and he tossed the man his cap, “have at those spry dogs tomorrow. I will keep the fires warm until you arrive.”

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