To distract himself from pointless regret, he took a biscuit and asked, “Have you spoken with my brother lately?”
“I have. Nay more than an hour ago.” He hesitated, a thumb stuck inside the book to keep his place. “He offered me a sum of money. In reward of my assistance, as he was pleased to put it.”
“Well deserved,” Grey said heartily, hoping that Hal hadn’t been an ass about it.
“I told him it had the stink of blood money and I wouldna touch it … but he pointed out that I hadna done what I’d done for money—and that’s true enough. In fact, he said, he’d forced me to do it—which is not entirely true, but I wasna disposed to argue the fine points—and that he wished to recompense me for the inconvenience to which he had put me.” He gave Grey a wry look. “I said I thought this a jesuitical piece o’ reasoning, but he replied that as I’m a Papist, he supposed I could have no reasonable objection on those grounds.
“He also pointed out,” Fraser went on, “that I was under no obligation to keep the money myself; he would be pleased to pay it out to anyone I specified. And, after all, there were still folk who were under my protection, were there not?”
Grey sent up a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Hal hadn’t been an ass.
“Indeed there are,” Grey said. “Who do you propose to help?”
Fraser narrowed his eyes a bit but had plainly been thinking about it.
“Well, there’s my sister and her husband. They’ve the six bairns—and there are my tenants—” He caught himself, lips compressed for a moment “Families who were my tenants,” he corrected.
“How many?” Grey asked, curious.
“Maybe forty families—maybe not so many now. But still …”
Hal must have come well up to scratch on the reward, Grey thought.
Grey didn’t wish to dwell on the matter. He coughed and rang the bell for a footman to bring him a drink. His chances of getting anything stronger than barley water in his bedroom were slim, and he wasn’t fond of sherry.
“Returning to my brother,” he said, having given his order for brandy, “I wondered whether he has said anything to you regarding the court-martial or the progress of … er … the, um, military operation.” The arrest of the incriminated officers of the Irish Brigades, he meant.
The frown returned, this time troubled and somewhat fierce.
“He has,” Fraser replied shortly. “The court-martial is set for Friday. He wished me to remain, in case my testimony is required.”
Grey was shaken; he hadn’t thought Hal would have Fraser testify. If Jamie did, he would be a marked man. The testimony of a general court-martial became by law part of the public record of the Judge Advocate’s court; it would be impossible to hide Fraser’s part in the investigation of Siverly’s affairs or the revelation of Twelvetrees’s treachery. Even if there were no direct linkage made to the quashing of the Irish Brigades’ plot, Jacobite sympathizers—and there were still many, even in London—would draw conclusions. The Irish as a race were known to be vengeful.
A lesser emotion was one of dismay at the thought that Hal might send Fraser back to Helwater so quickly—though in justice there was no reason to keep him in London. He’d done what Hal required of him, however unwillingly.
Was that what Hal was thinking? That if Fraser testified, he could then be quickly sent back to the remote countryside to resume a hidden life as Alexander MacKenzie, safe from retribution?
“As to the … military operation …” The broad mouth compressed in a brief grimace. “I believe it is satisfactory. I am naturally not in His Grace’s entire confidence, but I heard Colonel Quarry telling him that there had been several significant arrests made yesterday.”
“Ah,” Grey said, trying to sound neutral. The arrests couldn’t help but cause Fraser pain, even though he had agreed with the necessity. “Was … er … was Mr. Quinn’s name among them?”
“No.” Fraser looked disturbed at this. “Are they hunting Quinn?”
Grey shrugged a little and took a sip of his brandy. It burned agreeably going down.
“They know his name, his involvement,” he said, a little hoarsely, and cleared his throat. “And he is a loose cannon. He quite possibly knows who some members of the Wild Hunt are. Do you not think he would make an effort to warn them, if he knows they are exposed?”
“He would, aye.” Fraser rose suddenly and went to look out the window, leaning on the frame, his face turned away.
“Do you know where he is?” Grey asked quietly, and Fraser shook his head.
“I wouldna tell ye if I did,” he said, just as quietly. “But I don’t.”
“Would you warn him—if you could?” Grey asked. He oughtn’t, but was possessed by curiosity.
“I would,” Fraser replied without hesitation. He turned round now and looked down at Grey, expressionless. “He was once my friend.”
So was I, Grey thought, and took more brandy. Am I now again? But not even the most exigent curiosity would make him ask.
THE COURT-MARTIAL OF MAJOR GERALD SIVERLY (DECEASED) was well attended. Everyone from the Duke of Cumberland (who had tried to appoint himself to the board of judges, but been prevented by Hal) to the lowest Fleet Street hack crowded into the Guildhall, this being the largest venue available.
Lord John Grey, pale and limping but steady of eye and voice, testified before the board, this consisting of five officers drawn from various regiments—none of them Siverly’s—and the Judge Advocate, that he had received the papers now presented to the board from Captain Charles Carruthers in Canada, where Carruthers had served under Major Siverly and been witness to the actions described herein, and that he, Grey, had heard such further testimony from Carruthers in person as inclined him to believe the documentary evidence as it stood.
Courts-martial had no set procedure, no dock, no Bible, no barristers, no rules of evidence. Anyone who wished to do so might testify or ask questions, and a number of people did so—including the Duke of Cumberland, who thrust his bulk forward before Grey could sit down and came straight up to him, glowering directly into his face from a distance of six inches.
“Is it not true, my lord,” Cumberland asked, with heavy sarcasm, “that Major Siverly saved your life at the siege of Quebec?”
“It is, Your Grace.”
“And have you no shame at thus betraying your debt to a brother-in-arms?”
“No, I haven’t,” Grey replied calmly, though his heart was thumping erratically. “Major Siverly’s behavior on the field of battle was honorable and valorous—but he would have done the same for any soldier, as would I. For me to withhold evidence of his corruption and his peculations off that field would be a betrayal of the entire army in which I have the honor to serve and a betrayal of all those comrades with whom I have fought through the years.”
“Hear him! Hear him!” shouted a voice from the back of the hall, which he rather thought was Harry Quarry’s. A general rumbling of approval filled the hall, and Cumberland receded, still glaring.
The testimony went on all day, with various officers of Siverly’s regiment coming to offer their own witness, some speaking well of the dead man’s character, but others—many others—recounting incidents that supported Carruthers’s account. Regimental loyalty counted for a great deal, Grey thought—but regimental honor counted for more, and the thought pleased him.
For Grey, the day gradually blurred into a confusion of faces, voices, uniforms, hard chairs, shouts echoing from the huge beams of the ceiling, the occasional shoving match broken up by the sergeant-at-arms … and, at the end of it, he found himself in the street outside, momentarily apart from the tumultuous crowd that had spilled out of the Guildhall.
Hal, who had been the most senior officer on the court, was across the street, talking intently to the Judge Advocate, who was nodding. It was late afternoon, and the chimneys of London were all belching forth as the fires were built up for evening. Grey took a grateful lungful of the smoky air, fresh by comparison with the close atmosphere inside the Guildhall, which was composed in equal parts of sweat, trampled food, tobacco, and the smell of rage—and fear. He’d been aware of that, the tiny thrilling of the nerves among the crowd, the faces that quietly vanished as the testimony mounted.
Hal had been careful to avoid any mention of the Irish Brigades, the Wild Hunt, or the plan to seize the king; there were too many plotters as yet unaccounted for, and no need to alarm the public a priori. He had brought up Edward Twelvetrees, though, and his role as Siverly’s confidant and co-conspirator—and Grey shivered suddenly, recalling the look on Reginald Twelvetrees’s face, the old colonel sitting like a stone near the front of the room, burning eyes fixed on Hal without blinking as the damning words came out, one after another in an overwhelming flood.
Reginald Twelvetrees hadn’t said a word, though. What, after all, could he say? He’d left just before the final verdict—guilty, of course, on all charges.
Grey supposed he should feel victorious, or at least vindicated. He’d kept his promise to Charlie, found the truth—a good deal more of it than he’d expected or wanted—and, he supposed, achieved justice.
If you could call it that, he thought dimly, seeing three or four Fleet Street scribblers elbowing one another in an effort to talk to young Eldon Garlock, the ensign who had been the youngest member of the court and thus first to give his verdict.
God knew what they’d write. He only hoped none of it would be about him; he’d experienced the attentions of the press before, though in an entirely favorable way. Having seen the favors of the printers at close range, he could only hope that God would have mercy on those they didn’t like.
He had walked away from the crowd, but with no real direction in mind, only wanting to put distance between himself and this day. Absorbed in his thoughts—at least Jamie Fraser had not been required to testify; that was something—he failed for some time to realize that he was accompanied. Some faint sense of arrhythmia disturbed him, though, an echo of his own footsteps, and at last he glanced aside to see what might be causing it.
He stopped dead, and Hubert Bowles, who had been walking a half step behind him, came up even and stopped, bowing.
“My lord,” he said politely. “How do you do?”
“Not that well,” he said. “I must ask you to excuse me, Mr. Bowles.” He turned to go on, but Bowles stopped him with a hand on his arm. Affronted by the familiarity, Grey jerked back.
“I must ask your forbearance, my lord,” Bowles said, with a faint lisp that made it almost “forbearanth.” He spoke mildly but with an authority that stopped Grey’s making any protest. “I have something to say that you must hear.”
Hubert Bowles was small and shapeless, with a round head and rounded back, and with his shabby wig and worn coat, no one would have looked at him twice. Even his face was bland as a boiled pudding, with little black-currant eyes put in. Nonetheless, Grey slowly inclined his head in unwilling acknowledgment.