Prologue

June, 1918.

"I should never have come here," Patrick Benson wrote, sitting alone in the groundskeeper’s lodge where he, as one of two male orderlies attached to the Sotheby Manor War Hospital, had been billeted. "It was a mistake and I have only managed to ruin everyone’s lives."

Up at the manor, the same thought echoed in the mind of young Mary Sotheby as she explained the matter to her friend, Emily Cathcart. Mary did not give voice to the thought; rather, she crushed it quickly and guiltily, and strove to forget that she’d ever thought it. After all, it wasn’t her place to say what Benson should or should not do.

But Benson, unhampered by any such considerations, continued his note: "I’m sorry for everything. I’m going now--"

And then he stopped. He had been about to say that he was going to join the War effort, conscientious objector status be damned. But then it was almost certain that someone would seek him out at the nearest training camp and force his return, and Benson did not want that.

"I’m going now to end it all," he wrote instead. "Goodbye."

He left the note on the table for William Mainwaring, the other male orderly, to find, then slipped out of the lodge.

He didn’t much care about living through the fighting, but, as a matter of fact, it wasn’t the War that killed him.

Next Chapter: Chapter One: Introducing Eric Peterkin