It was evening when he came in sight of his home. The Grange nestled in the valley, surrounded by orchards and fields of corn. There were brambles in the hedgerows and rosehips glowed orange. Summer was fading into autumn and there was a chill to the wind that penetrated the tears in his buff coat. The scent of new mown hay lingered in the air, dispersing the stench of blood, fear and smoke that clung to him even though he had left the battlefield many leagues in his wake. Some stains you couldn’t cleanse, though he had halted to wash at every stream he crossed.
The window panes caught the light of the setting sun. No smoke drifted from the chimneys. Philip shifted in the saddle and bent to pat the mare’s neck. “It’s good to be home,” he murmured. Even as he said it he wondered if he was talking to reassure the mare or himself. He would be better for fire and food and the peace of his own hearth.
Old Silas raised his billhook as he passed. “I hear tidings of the battle,” he said, “a great victory for the Commonwealth.”
Philip was so tired but he smiled and said, “Yes, a great victory, praise the Lord.”
He thought back to the violence and the fear and then later the lines of wretched prisoners. Cavaliers in blood stained finery, lace torn from their shirts to bind wounds. The enemy, finally defeated, trailing their pride in the dust.
In the end after all the skirmishes and despite the desperate heroism it had been a rout. The New Model Army moved in, implacable like their leader, and although the cursed royalists fought bravely, they were no match for discipline and superior force.
As was his duty he had chased down wounded men, rounding them up like animals and haltering some for slaughter. He remembered the execution in the cold dawn and the triumph. There had been no glory in that. The lord had died bravely but the young king, the greatest prize, had fled, shielded by his followers. They laid down their lives for him as once men laid down their cloaks so the foot of the monarch should not touch common ground.
There was a price on his head now, one thousand pounds. A fortune to be gained by those eager to hale him to die on a scaffold like his father, the enemy of the people, King Charles the martyr. It was rumoured great Cromwell himself had stood at the bier of the dead king and murmured, “Cruel necessity.”
Philip prayed this battle at last might bring peace.