The Scottish Prisoner

Page 43

“If you can hold on to your stomach when all about you are losing theirs …” he muttered, thinking that this would be a good line for a poem. He must remember to tell Harry; perhaps he could think of a decent rhyme. “Boozing lairs” was the only thing that came to his own mind, and the thought of boozing kens, dark cellars full of drunken, sweating, cohabiting humanity, combined with the reek of his companions and the coach’s jolting, made him queasy again.

The thought of explaining things to Hal made him queasier still, but there was no help for it.

They reached Argus House near sunset, and Minnie, hearing the noise of their arrival, came hurrying down the stairs to greet them. A quick, appalled glance at them having told her all she wanted to know, she forbade them to speak, rang for footmen and chambermaids, and ordered brandy and baths all round.

“Hal …?” Grey asked, glancing warily toward the library.

“He’s in the House, making a speech about tin mining. I’ll send a note to bring him back.” She took a step away, holding her nose with one hand and gesturing him toward the stairs with the other. “Shoo, John.”

CLEAN AND STILL relatively sober, despite a lavish application of brandy, Grey made his way down to the larger drawing room, where his nose told him tea was being served. He heard the soft rumble of Jamie Fraser’s voice, talking to Minnie, and found them cozily ensconced on the blue settee; they looked up at his entrance with the slightly startled air of conspirators.

He had no time to wonder about this before Hal arrived, dressed for the House of Lords and flushed from the heat of the day. The duke collapsed into a chair with a groan and pried his red-heeled shoes off, dropping them into Nasonby’s hands with a sigh of relief. The butler bore them off as though they were made of fine china, leaving Hal to examine a hole in his stocking.

“The press of carriages and wagons was so great, I got out and walked,” he said, as though he’d last seen his brother at breakfast, rather than weeks before. He glanced up at Grey. “I’ve got a blister on my heel the size of a pigeon’s egg, and it looks better than you do. What the devil’s happened?”

With this introduction, it proved easier than Grey had thought to lay things out. This he did as succinctly as possible, referring to Fraser now and then to provide details.

Hal’s lips twitched a bit at the part about Siverly’s attack upon Jamie Fraser, but he sobered immediately upon hearing of Grey’s two visits to Siverly’s estate.

“Good God, John.” Tea had now appeared, and he absently took a slice of fruitcake, which he held uneaten in one hand while stirring sugar into his tea. “So you escaped from Athlone Castle and fled Ireland, suspected of murder. You do realize that the justiciar will recognize you from your description?”

“I hadn’t time to worry about it,” Grey retorted, “and I don’t plan to start now. We have more important things to think of.”

Hal leaned forward and set down the fruitcake, very carefully.

“Tell me,” he said.

Grey obliged, bringing out the half-charred pages they had retrieved from Twelvetrees’s bonfire. Finally, he deposited the smudged and crumpled sheet of poetry, with the list of names on the back, and explained what he thought these signified.

Hal picked it up, whistled between his teeth, and said something scabrous in German.

“Nicely put,” said Grey. His throat was raw from seasickness and talking. He took up his cup of tea and inhaled it thankfully. “I see one man on that list who holds a commission; if any of the others are in the army, it should be possible to locate them fairly easily.”

Hal put the singed pages carefully on the table.

“Well. I think it behooves us to proceed carefully, but quickly. I’ll put Harry on to these names; he knows everyone and can find out who they are, if they’re in the army, and what their history may be. Plainly most are Irish; I think we ought to have a very cautious look at the Irish Brigades—don’t want to offend them unduly. As for Twelvetrees …” He noticed the fruitcake, picked it up, and took a bite, chewing absently as he thought.

“He already knows he’s under suspicion of something,” Grey pointed out, “whether he knows what or not. Do we approach him directly or just follow him about London to see who he talks to?”

Hal’s face lighted in a smile, as he looked his younger brother up and down.

“You going to black your face and follow him yourself? Or did you have in mind setting Mr. Fraser on him? Neither of you is what I’d call inconspicuous.”

“No, I thought I’d let you do it,” Grey said. He reached for the brandy decanter and poured some into his teacup. He was so tired that his hand shook, splashing a little into the saucer.

“I’ll talk to Mr. Beasley,” Hal said thoughtfully. “I believe he knows where those O’Higgins rascals are; they might be of use.”

“They are Irish,” Grey pointed out. The O’Higgins brother, Rafe and Mick, were soldiers—when it suited them. When it didn’t, they disappeared like will-o’-the-wisps. They did, however, know everyone in the Rookery, that raucous, uncivilized bit of London where the Irish émigrés congregated. And if there was a job to be done involving things that weren’t strictly legal, the O’Higginses were your men.

“Being Irish doesn’t necessarily imply treasonous proclivities,” Hal said reprovingly. “They were certainly helpful with regard to Bernard Adams.”

“All right.” Grey leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, feeling fatigue flow through his body like sand through an hourglass. “On your head be it.”

Minnie cleared her throat. She’d been sitting quietly, stitching something, while the men conversed.

“What about Major Siverly?” she asked.

Grey opened his eyes, regarding her blearily.

“He’s dead,” he said. “Were you not listening, Minerva?”

She gave him a cold look. “And doubtless he deserved it. But did you not begin this hegira with the intent of bringing him to justice and making him account publicly for his crimes?”

“Can you court-martial a dead man?”

She cleared her throat again and looked pleased.

“Actually,” she said, “I rather think you can.”

Hal stopped chewing fruitcake.

“I collected any number of records of general courts-martial, you know,” she said, with a quick glance at Grey. “When … when poor Percy …” She coughed, and looked away. “But the point is, you can have a posthumous court-martial. A man’s deeds live after him and all that, apparently—though I think it’s mostly intended to provide a record of truly stunning peccability, for the edification of the troops and to enable the wicked officer’s superiors to indicate that they weren’t actually asleep or conniving while all the dirty dealings were going on.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Grey said. From the corner of his eye, he could see Jamie Fraser examining a crumpet as though he’d never seen one before, lips tight. Jamie Fraser was the only person in the world—besides Percy—who knew the truth of Grey’s relationship with his stepbrother.

“How often has it been done?” Hal asked, fascinated.

“Well, once that I know about,” Minnie admitted. “But once is enough, isn’t it?”

Hal pursed his lips and nodded, eyes narrowed as he envisioned the possibilities. It would have to be a general court-martial, rather than a regimental one; they’d known that to begin with. Siverly’s regiment might wish to prefer charges against him, given the scale of his crimes, but the records of a regimental court-martial were not public, whereas those of a general court-martial necessarily were, involving the judge advocate’s office and its tediously detailed records.

“And it does give you a public arena, should you want one,” Minnie added delicately, “in which to explore Major Siverly’s relations with Edward Twelvetrees. Or anyone else you like.” She nodded at the singed paper lying next to the teapot.

Hal began to laugh. It was a low, joyous sound, and one Grey hadn’t heard in some time.

“Minnie, my dear,” he said affectionately. “You are a pearl of great price.”

“Well, yes,” she said modestly. “I am. Captain Fraser, would you care for more tea?”

THOMAS, COMTE DE LALLY, Baron de Tollendal, was lodged in a small private house near Spitalfields. So much Jamie had discovered from the duchess, who didn’t ask him why he required the information; nor did he ask her why she wanted to know whether he had spoken with Edward Twelvetrees and, if so, whether Twelvetrees had mentioned the name Raphael Wattiswade.

He wondered briefly who Wattiswade was but made no inquiries of Grey or Pardloe; if the duchess respected his confidence, he would respect hers. He had asked her whether she had heard of Tobias Quinn; she had not.

He wasn’t surprised at that; if Quinn was in London—and knowing what he knew about Quinn’s plans, he was almost sure of it—he would be keeping himself quiet. Still, he might be using the Druid cup as inspiration to those followers whose dedication was not quite sure—and if he had the cup and had been showing the dreadful thing about, there might well be rumors of it.

He walked through the narrow streets, feeling the alien strangeness of the city. Once, he had had men he knew—both those he commanded and those who sought him out—and networks of information. Once, he could have put out word and found a man like Quinn within hours.


He put the thought firmly away from him; that part of his life was over. He had made up his mind to it and did not mean to turn back; why did such thoughts still come to him?

“Because ye’ve still to finish it, clot-heid,” he muttered to himself. He had to find Quinn. Whether it was to put a stop to the Irish Brigades’ plot before it became action, dooming those involved in it, or for the sake of Quinn himself, he wasn’t sure—but he must find the man. And Thomas Lally was still a man such as he had been himself. Lally was also a prisoner, true, but one still with followers, informants, one who listened and planned. A man who would leave the stage of war only when carried off it feetfirst. A man who hasn’t given up, he thought, with a tinge of bitterness.

He’d come unannounced. It wasn’t courteous, but he wasn’t interested in courtesy. He needed information and had a better chance of getting it if Lally hadn’t time to decide whether it was wise to give it to him.

The sun was high by the time he arrived; Pardloe had invited him to make use of the Greys’ coach, but he didn’t want anyone knowing his destination and so had walked halfway across London. They weren’t bothering to follow him anymore; they were much too busy looking for the members of the Wild Hunt. How long might he have before one of those names led them to someone who would talk? He knocked at the door.

“Captain Fraser.” It was Lally himself who answered the door, to Jamie’s surprise. Lally was surprised, too, but cordial—he stepped back, gesturing Jamie inside.

“I am alone,” Jamie said, seeing Lally peer down the street before closing the door.

“So am I,” said Lally, casting a bleak look round the tiny front room. It was disordered, with smeared crockery and crumbs on the table, a cold, unswept hearth, and a general feel of neglect. “My servant has left, I’m afraid. Can I offer you …” He swung round, eyeing a shelf that held two or three bottles, picked one up and shook it, looking relieved when it sloshed. “A glass of ale?”

“Aye, thank ye.” He knew better than to refuse hospitality, particularly under such circumstances, and they sat down at the table—there was no place else to sit—pushing aside the dirty dishes, green cheese rinds, and a dead cockroach. Jamie wondered if the thing had died of starvation or poisoning.

“So,” said Lally, after a minimal exchange of commonplaces, “did you find your Wild Hunt?”

“The English think they have,” Jamie said. “Though it may be naught but a mare’s nest.”

Lally’s eyes widened in interest, but he was still reserved.

“I heard that you went to Ireland with Lord John Grey,” he remarked, and sighed a little. “I haven’t seen it in many years. Is it still green, then, and beautiful?”

“Wet as a bath sponge and mud to the knees, but, aye, it was green enough.”

That made Lally laugh; Jamie thought he didn’t laugh often. It didn’t come easily to him.

“It’s true that I was obliged to go wi’ his lordship,” Jamie said, “but I had another companion, as well—one less official. D’ye recall Tobias Quinn, by chance?”

Indeed he did; Jamie saw the knowledge flicker deep in Lally’s eyes, though his face stayed calm, slightly quizzical.

“From the Rising. One of the Irish who came with O’Sullivan, was he not?”

“Aye, that’ll be the man. He met us in Ireland and traveled with us, in the guise of a traveler met by accident.”

“Indeed.” Lally sipped ale—it was flat and stale, and he made a face and threw it out the open window. “What was his purpose?”

“He told me he sought a thing—the Cupán Druid riogh, he called it. Ye’ve heard of it?”

Lally was not a good natural liar.

“No,” he said, but his hands curled on the tabletop and he stiffened a little. “A Druid king’s cup? What on earth is that?”

“Ye’ve seen it, then,” Jamie said, friendly but firm. Lally stiffened further, torn between denial and answer. So he had seen it. Which in turn meant that he’d seen Quinn, for surely Quinn would surrender it to no man save Charles Stuart.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.