1643 c/o Helen Dring

The Soldier Walks Like Light.

He sleeps like he prays, lost and deep. He should be steeled, half awake and always ready but, instead, he slumbers like a man who sleeps with people he trusts with his life. He came a week before the others. He is thin, like a scholar who does not eat because he is too preoccupied with books and parchment. He should not be a soldier.

Clothilde says the man that hides at her house is much different, that he tears great chunks of meat with his teeth and swills down wine like it flows from a spring. Her man is a fighter, pure and bred. He sleeps with a knife in his hand and watches her when she goes to feed the chickens in case she is seeking out Roundheads to betray him to.

But our solider is silent. He nods meekly when we offer him food and nibbles on bread like a child. He reads until the early hours, his eyes straining in the dark. Once, when he saw me watching, he asked if I could read. When I shook my head, he took my finger and traced the shape of the letters on the page, reciting each one to me as he read. That's the closest any woman in my family has come to reading, that would-be soldier holding my hand as he turned the pages.

Tomorrow he moves to the church. The church, my father says, is the central point. There will be many others, ready to defend the King, to fight for God. I wish my soldier would stay, that we could hide him here forever. He could be my brother, or a cousin, or an orphan that we took in years ago. No-one need know. But there is a shame in avoiding battle, in running from the fight.

I closed my eyes as his footsteps walked away from our cottage. Farther up the hill, the church stands proud. His feet are light against the grass and I know, without looking, that he walks with his head held high.

The Roundheads will come with the dawn, and my soldier may not see the dusk.