Short Story Preview: Arms and the Man – Malcolm Allen
After recovering from the wounds that I had sustained in the battle of the Khyber Pass in 1876 I considered my future in the army. My Regiment, the 71st Highland Light Infantry, had been entirely decimated in that sad action and the thought of continuing my career without the many chums that I had served with for years was not an attractive proposition. Besides which, following the Cardwell Reforms of ’71 banning the purchase of promotion, the chance of further advancement was unlikely. As a colleague put it, ‘It is a strange world, Major McDonald, when ability appears to outweigh money and connections.’ So it was that I made the decision to return to Scotland and concentrate on the care of my estates.
For years now these had been the responsibility of my younger brother, a rather dull young man whose main interest in life, indeed his only interest, was cooking, of all things, God! No hunting, shooting, fishing or worse, no golf, he seemed to spend most of his day shredding and frying beef and moulding the result into a pastry-less pie of sorts. Something that no gentleman would be seen eating. He had also allowed much of my estate to be taken over by tenant farmers and crofters who were allowed to scratch a living off the land in exchange for a meagre rent. A useful income, I admit, but entirely unnecessary, and I made this abundantly clear to Ronald when I returned to my ancestral castle. Scraggy bovids were everywhere and you could hardly walk or ride a dozen miles or so before stumbling on a pitiful bothy inhabited by gormless men and women and hordes of filthy children.