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In Coimbra

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In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Sun Apr 05, 2009 12:12 pm

In the morning she woke early, but she lay there staring at the walls and ceiling for a while before a young woman tapped on her door and brought a cloth and basin of water. When the girl was gone, Maggie quickly undressed and washed, looking at the bruises and welts with detachment. There were teeth marks which she particularly scrubbed, but the vermin's saliva had long since been washed off. She wondered if her breasts, her skin would ever look clean. She was no lily, but she had always tried to keep herself clean. She wondered if her body would now be diseased. What did women do when they became diseased?

She had no clothes of her own. She had only been wearing her chemise when she had gone out, slipping her shoes on and throwing a blanket around her shoulders. Just a quick walk across the stable yard. They had given her another chemise when she had come in, and Jenny had taken the torn soiled one away. Now she found the dress that the girl had brought in, a plain sort of brown gray garment, and she slipped it on over her head after the chemise.

Those women who were well enough ate at long tables in a sort of refectory. They would move her into the common ward tonight, and these were the women she would sleep beside. She supposed that many were unfortunates like herself. If there were men in this hospital, they were obviously kept well apart somewhere else.

She could not follow the prayer, of course, but she kept her eyes closed for most of it and copied the others when they crossed themselves. There was porridge and coffee and an overbearing gray gloom. The women did not talk much, but Maggie would not have understood anyway. A young woman down the table was whimpering and rubbing her breasts, and Maggie could see the wet spots on her frock. It happened sometimes, like Molly Macgregor with her little Sandy. Molly had usually just covered up with a shawl; it hadn't seemed to bother her. The woman's neighbor slapped her and made her be quiet. Most of them kept eating and took little notice.

The sooner Maggie could leave this place, the better. Maybe - maybe Joe would even take her back with him. She would ask Jenny what she thought when they came to visit after breakfast.

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Maggie Cotton
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Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Sat Apr 11, 2009 1:37 pm

[Jenny comes from here.]


Maggie was in the garden when Jenny came. There was a cloister-like area of green shut away from the street, and she needed fresh air and light. She was still in pain, but she was not about to stay in bed the whole day, particularly in the crowded ward with other women moaning and crying or talking in their impossible language.

The severe-looking nun with the scratched face brought Jenny to her. Maggie gave the nun an apologetic smile, for it was she herself who had scratched her yesterday. Confused and frightened and not understanding, she had lashed out during her examination. "Obrigado, senhora," she said shyly, but she did not understand the the nun's parting response.

"There you are, Maggie," Jenny said with a smile, sitting down next to her on the bench. "Joe's outside. They wouldn't let him in here. How are you?"

"I'm all right," she replied. She reached out to squeeze her friend's hands and gave her a pale smile. "But Jenny, this place is miserable. I have to get out."

She explained her thoughts and her feelings, and her ultimate decision to return to the column. Jenny was surprised, as she had expected. Was she sure? Did she need some more time to think about it, and to rest? Was she ready to face all those soldiers, and Cotton?

Maggie looked down at her lap for a few moments. "I don't know," she admitted in a low voice. "But I can't stay here another day. And - I can't bear it. I want to go back. We can't go to Lisbon, and we'd never make it back to England - I tried that, remember? And Joe has to go back, so we could go with him. Please, Jenny, let's go back. I can't do it without you. You'll go with me, won't you?"

Jenny's looked at her with worry and compassion for a moment before finally nodding. "Yes, of course, if that's what you want to do. I'll go with you wherever you want to go. But - Joe's just outside. Let's talk to him before deciding."

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Maggie Cotton
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Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Joe Newbury on Sun Apr 12, 2009 12:08 am

It would be a miracle if he ever got his shirt halfway clean again, Newbury thought. Maybe he should have let Jenny wash it. It was also awkward, waiting outside the garden with a stern-faced nun glaring suspiciously at him. Jenny and Miss Evans ought to hurry up.

He tried whistling a marching tune to distract himself, but the nun babbled something at him and he quickly stopped. His attention turned to the barrel of his rifle. The Baker could use a cleaning, he decided.

The nun was babbling again. Newbury looked up to see Jenny and Miss Evans coming out of the garden. In daylight, Miss Evans looked far worse than he remembered from the day before. He pulled his shako off.

"Mornin', Miss," he greeted, a little cautiously.

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Joe Newbury
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Sun Apr 12, 2009 4:03 am

She smiled. "Morning, Joe. You don't need to 'miss' me. I'm still the same Maggie." She sat down next to him feeling awkward, for she had noticed his startled expression. She had not seen herself in a mirror, but she could see that the bruises on her arms had darkened, turning an ugly blue. There was probably a similar mark on her face, and perhaps more around her neck. For a moment she found herself wishing that the nuns would make their patients wear wimples and veils.


Last edited by Maggie Evans on Fri Apr 17, 2009 3:52 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Jenny Ross on Sun Apr 12, 2009 5:54 am

"Joe and I stayed in your house last night," Jenny said lightly. "Or, well, Captain Vickery's place. We broke in like a pair of right thieves. It's nice to sleep indoors, isn't it."

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Jenny Ross
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Joe Newbury on Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:08 am

He knew that. Even though it felt more proper to call her 'miss', since she'd started walking out with Cotton. Embarrassed, Newbury looked down at his shoes. He really was no good at knowing the right things to say.

"Aye," he said after Jenny had spoken. "Had a proper bed even, that house."

Oh yes. He'd nearly forgotten. "Bread and cheese?" Newbury asked, fishing both items out of his jacket and offering them to Miss Evans.
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Joe Newbury
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Apr 13, 2009 6:50 am

"Oh." She looked at the offerings and shook her head. "No, thanks. Joe, do you think... What do you think about... if I was to come back with you. Me and Jenny."

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Joe Newbury on Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:48 am

Newbury froze, the bread and cheese halfway back into his pocket. She wanted to go back? Hadn't she been against the idea just yesterday? The sudden apparent turn-around confused him.

"It'd be a fair walk," he said, forcing himself to consider how he was supposed to get two women safely back to the column. " 'Less we had a mule or somethin'."
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Joe Newbury
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Species : 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1181
Location : Rabbit hunting
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:38 am

"We're used to walking," she said, dismissing the issue. "But do you think it would be a good idea? To go back to the company. Or... would I regret it?" She looked at him earnestly, hoping and wishing for reassurance. She would not normally have chosen Joe Newbury as either confidant or adviser, but she needed his help now and his man's opinion. "Would Gabe... What do you think?"

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
Member since : 2008-08-02

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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Joe Newbury on Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:30 pm

"I think..." Newbury bit his lip. "I think you'd be safer with us Rifles. Sure better than riskin' goin' back to England. Cotton'd be all sorta glad to have you back, too. Worried sick when he couldn't find you, he was."

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Joe Newbury
Commander

Species : 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1181
Location : Rabbit hunting
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:32 pm

"Really? You really think so?" she asked, grabbing onto his words anxiously. "I mean - that he'd be glad to take me back? Knowing...?" She looked at him with mixed worry and hope in her eyes. "I wrote him a letter, see, so he'll know all about it if I go back. Though I didn't tell him who it was."

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Jenny Ross on Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:40 pm

Jenny looked at Maggie and then at Newbury. "Some men can't get past that kind of thing," she explained to the rifleman. "They think of the woman as damaged goods, second rate at best. Or doubt nags at their mind over time and they wonder if it was really against her will, really? after the bruises have gone." She could see that Maggie was troubled by her words. They had talked about these things already, but as painful as the ideas were, it was better to hear about them now, bluntly, than to be unprepared and unexpectedly wounded later.

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Jenny Ross
Commander

Species : Camp follower, 60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1026
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Joe Newbury on Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:13 pm

Newbury looked at her, unsettled by her apparent worry. "Aye, I do. Top bloke, Gabe Cotton. Thinks the world of you, he does."

And that was nothing more than the truth, as far as Newbury had seen. In his view, Maggie Evans would be a good deal better off back with the Rifles and Gabe Cotton than she would be out somewhere on her own.

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Joe Newbury
Commander

Species : 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1181
Location : Rabbit hunting
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:10 pm

Maggie stared into the middle distance for a moment, wanting to be convinced. That was probably the best answer she was going to get, but she wished, how she wished she could be more certain.

Before she could answer, however, Sister Teresa approached their little group. "Here for thee, Miss 'Eaven," she said, handing her a package and a letter. The letter was addressed to her in an unknown hand, but she recognized Cotton's awkward scrawl on the paper of the package. She tore it open eagerly and found - no letter. Just her shawl, her green shawl. Worried and confused, she unfolded it, and then with a startled gasp she put her hand to her mouth when she saw - her own little pinchbeck locket. The only precious thing she had ever owned. The one that had belonged to her mother. The one she had told Cotton to wear and keep safe. He was returning it. He had sent it back to her. He had sent it away. He had taken it off and sent it away. A tear slid down her cheek as she opened it and looked again at the lock of her mother's hair, and the lock of her own that she had pressed inside for him to keep. "Oh Gabe."

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
Member since : 2008-08-02

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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Jenny Ross on Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:25 pm

Jenny saw the locket fall into Maggie's lap. She recognized it, having seen Maggie wearing it before, but she did not know the significance of its return except that it had obviously distressed her. She squeezed Maggie's hand. "Read the letter," she urged.

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Jenny Ross
Commander

Species : Camp follower, 60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1026
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:38 pm

Maggie wiped at her face and nodded, turning to the letter. She broke the seal and unfolded the paper, her eye immediately jumping down to the bottom to see the signature. Gabriel. In that same awkward pencil writing, Gabriel. In fact, Maggie, I love you. Gabriel. She choked back a sob and read it quickly, desperately, drinking it in.

I'm awful sorry for what happened to you. I still love you, it won't change that. I want you to come home, but if you really want to go back to England, I won't stop you. I thought that if you were leaving me, you'd want your locket back. It's wrapped up safe in your shawl.

He had sent it back, not because he was through with her, but because he thought she would want it back. That she was leaving him. Leaving him - and of course that was exactly what she had been planning to do.

Maggie, I want to ask you to come home to me, please. I'm sorry I couldn't look after you, but don't leave me this way. I couldn't bear it. I've been awfully worried about you, and Father O'Dwyer says he can get this letter to you. I know you won't be able to answer it, but I wanted to tell you that I miss you so much, and I love you, and I always will.

And then that writing, that awkward writing in his own hand. Dear Gable! She looked up with tears in her eyes, but she laughed in one short bursting sob. "Well that settles it then. He wants me to come back!"

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Maggie Cotton
Captain

Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
Member since : 2008-08-02

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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Jenny Ross on Sun Apr 19, 2009 5:35 pm

Relieved, Jenny smiled as she took her friend's hands in her own. "I'm so glad." Cotton's quick and positive response had exceeded Jenny's expectations. She just hoped he would not change his mind later.

Before she could say more, one of the nuns called and beckoned to her. It was the pretty little nun, the one named something like Freira Luz. They were near the entrance of the hospital, the one nearest the little walled garden, and Freira Luz pointed out towards the dusty street. What Jenny saw there made her smile as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders, one she had not even known she was carrying. Bless that angel Gabriel Cotton, for he had sent Maggie her donkey.

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Jenny Ross
Commander

Species : Camp follower, 60th Rifles
Number of posts : 1026
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Re: In Coimbra

Post  Maggie Cotton on Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:42 pm

Maggie came to see what the commotion was about. There was Jessy, her faithful little patient donkey, standing there like a miracle. Strapped onto her back was the familiar pack that held Maggie's own clothes, her tin cup and her cooking pot. Cotton was a marvel! He had thought of everything. But she was shocked to find money, and with it a piece of paper.

"What is it?" Jenny asked, looking on in amazement.

"It's a list. Of my produce. It's a bill of sale!" She turned the paper over, but the other side still left her mystified. "This hand looks like... Gabe must have sold the produce. At nearly double the cost. Oh Gabe!" She wrapped her arms around Jenny as a surrogate for her gratitude. "That's it. We're leaving today. Straight away, now!"



[to Friday night on the march]

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Maggie Cotton
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Species : Camp follower/sutler, 5/60th Rifles
Number of posts : 2337
Location : following the 60th rifles
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