An Echo in the Bone An Echo in the Bone Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: the Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1778; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and hed rather die than face his illegitimate son a young lieutenant in the British Army across the barrel of a gun. Frasers time-travelling wife, Claire, also knows a couple of things: that the Americans will win, but that the ultimate price of victory is a mystery. What she does believe is that the price wont include Jamies life or happiness not if she has anything to say. Claires grown daughter Brianna, and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of Briannas parents history a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family. Orion 978-1-409-10362-2
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An Echo in the Bone

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Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: the Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1778; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and hed rather die than face his illegitimate son a young lieutenant in the British Army across the barrel of a gun. Frasers time-travelling wife, Claire, also knows a couple of things: that the Americans will win, but that the ultimate price of victory is a mystery. What she does believe is that the price wont include Jamies life or happiness not if she has anything to say.
Claires grown daughter Brianna, and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of Briannas parents history a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family.
An Echo in the Bone

THE BODY IS amazingly plastic. The spirit, even more so. But there are some things you dont come back from. Say ye so, a nighean? True, the bodys easily maimed, and the spirit can be crippledyet theres that in a man that is never destroyed.


A Troubling of the Waters

Wilmington, colony of North Carolina
July 1776

THE PIRATES HEAD had disappeared. William heard the speculations from a group of idlers on the quay nearby, wondering whether it would be seen again.
Na, him be gone for good, said a ragged man of mixed blood, shaking his head. De ally-gator don take him, de water will.
A backwoodsman shifted his tobacco and spat into the water in disagreement.
No, hes good for another daytwo, maybe. Them gristly bits what holds the head on, they dry out in the sun. Tighten up like iron. Seen it many a time with deer carcasses.
William saw Mrs. MacKenzie glance quickly at the harbor, then away. She looked pale, he thought, and maneuvered himself slightly so as to block her view of the men and the brown flood of high tide, though since it was high, the corpse tied to its stake was naturally not visible. The stake was, thougha stark reminder of the price of crime. The pirate had been staked to drown on the mudflats several days before, the persistence of his decaying corpse an ongoing topic of public conversation.
Jem! Mr. MacKenzie called sharply, and lunged past William in pursuit of his son. The little boy, red-haired like his mother, had wandered away to listen to the mens talk, and was now leaning perilously out over the water, clinging to a bollard in an attempt to see the dead pirate.
Mr. MacKenzie snatched the boy by the collar, pulled him in, and swept him up in his arms, though the boy struggled, craning back toward the swampish harbor.
I want to see the wallygator eat the pirate, Daddy!
The idlers laughed, and even MacKenzie smiled a little, though the smile disappeared when he glanced at his wife. He was at her side in an instant, one hand beneath her elbow.
I think we must be going, MacKenzie said, shifting his sons weight in order better to support his wife, whose distress was apparent. Lieutenant RansomLord Ellesmere, I meanhe corrected with an apologetic smile at Williamwill have other engagements, Im sure.
This was true; William was engaged to meet his father for supper. Still, his father had arranged to meet him at the tavern just across the quay; there was no risk of missing him. William said as much, and urged them to stay, for he was enjoying their companyMrs. MacKenzies, particularlybut she smiled regretfully, though her color was better, and patted the capped head of the baby in her arms.
No, we do have to be going. She glanced at her son, still struggling to get down, and William saw her eyes flicker toward the harbor and the stark pole that stood above the flood. She resolutely looked away, fixing her eyes upon Williams face instead. The babys waking up; shell be wanting food. It was so lovely to meet you, though. I wish we might talk longer. She said this with the greatest sincerity, and touched his arm lightly, giving him a pleasant sensation in the pit of the stomach.
The idlers were now placing wagers on the reappearance of the drowned pirate, though by the looks of things, none of them had two groats to rub together.
Two to one hes still there when the tide goes out.
Five to one the bodys still there, but the heads gone. I dont care what you say about the gristly bits, Lem, that there head was just a-hangin by a thread when this last tide come in. Next unll take it, sure.
Hoping to drown this conversation out, William embarked on an elaborate farewell, going so far as to kiss Mrs. MacKenzies hand with his best court mannerand, seized by inspiration, kissed the baby girls hand, too, making them all laugh. Mr. MacKenzie gave him rather an odd look, but didnt seem offended, and shook his hand in a most republican mannerplaying out the joke by setting down his son and making the little boy shake hands as well.
Have you kilt anybody? the boy inquired with interest, looking at Williams dress sword.
No, not yet, William replied, smiling.
My grandsires kilt two dozen men!
Jemmy! Both parents spoke at once, and the little boys shoulders went up around his ears.
Well, he has!
Im sure he is a bold and bloody man, your grandsire, William assured the little boy gravely. The King always has need of such men.
My grandda says the King can kiss his arse, the boy replied matter-of-factly.
Mr. MacKenzie clapped a hand over his outspoken offsprings mouth.
You know your grandda didnt say that! Mrs. MacKenzie said. The little boy nodded agreeably, and his father removed the muffling hand.
No. Grannie did, though.
Well, thats somewhat more likely, Mr. MacKenzie murmured, obviously trying not to laugh. But we still dont say things like that to soldiersthey work for the King.
Oh, said Jemmy, clearly losing interest. Is the tide going out now? he asked hopefully, craning his neck toward the harbor once more.
No, Mr. MacKenzie said firmly. Not for hours. Youll be in bed.
Mrs. MacKenzie smiled at William in apology, her cheeks charmingly flushed with embarrassment, and the family took its leave with some haste, leaving William struggling between laughter and dismay.
Oy, Ransom!
He turned at his name, to find Harry Dobson and Colin Osborn, two second lieutenants from his regiment, evidently escaped from duty and eager to sample the fleshpots of Wilmingtonsuch as they were.
Whos that? Dobson looked after the departing group, interested.
A Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie. Friends of my fathers.
Oh, married, is she? Dobson sucked in his cheeks, still watching the woman. Well, make it a bit harder, I suppose, but whats life without a challenge?
Challenge? William gave his diminutive friend a jaundiced look. Her husbands roughly three times your size, if you hadnt noticed.
Osborn laughed, going red in the face.
Shes twice his size! Shed crush you, Dobby.
And what makes you think I mean to be on the bottom? Dobson inquired with dignity. Osborn hooted.
Whats this obsession of yours with giantesses? William demanded. He glanced at the little family, now nearly out of sight at the end of the street. That womans nearly as tall as I am!
Oh, rub it in, why dont you? Osborn, who was taller than Dobsons five feet, but still a head shorter than William, aimed a mock kick at his knee. William dodged it and cuffed Osborn, who ducked and shoved him into Dobson.
Gennelmen! The menacing cockney tones of Sergeant Cutter brought them up sharp. They might outrank the sergeant, but not one of them would have the nerve to point this out. The entire battalion went in fear of Sergeant Cutter, who was older than God and approximately Dobsons height, but who contained within his diminutive physique the sheer fury of a full-sized volcano on the boil.
Sergeant! Lieutenant William Ransom, Earl of Ellesmere and senior of the group, drew himself up straight, chin pressed back into his stock. Osborn and Dobson hastily followed his lead, quaking in their boots.
Cutter strode back and forth in front of them, in the manner of a stalking leopard. You could just see the lashing tail and the preliminary licking of chops, William thought. Waiting for the bite was almost worse than getting it in the arse.
And wheres your troops, then? Cutter snarled. Sirs?
Osborn and Dobson at once began sputtering explanations, but Lieutenant Ransomfor oncewalked on the side of the angels.
My men are guarding the Governors Palace, under Lieutenant Colson. Im given leave, Sergeant, to dine with my father, he said respectfully. By Sir Peter.
Sir Peter Packers was a name to conjure with, and Cutter abated in mid-spew. Rather to Williams surprise, though, it wasnt Sir Peters name that had produced this reaction.
Your father? Cutter said, squinting. Thats Lord John Grey, is it?
Er yes, William replied cautiously. Do you know him?
Before Cutter could reply, the door of a nearby tavern opened, and Williams father came out. William smiled in delight at this timely appearance, but quickly erased the smile as the sergeants gimlet gaze fixed on him.
Dont you be a-grinnin at me like an airy ape, the sergeant began, in dangerous tones, but was interrupted by Lord Johns clapping him familiarly on the shouldersomething none of the three young lieutenants would have done if offered significant money.
Cutter! Lord John said, smiling warmly. I heard those dulcet tones and said to myself, why damn me if it isnt Sergeant Aloysius Cutter! There cant be another man alive who sounds so much like a bulldog thats swallowed a cat and lived to tell about it.
Aloysius? Dobson mouthed at William, but William merely grunted briefly in response, unable to shrug, as his father had now turned his attention in his direction.
William, he said, with a cordial nod. How very punctual you are. My apologies for being so late; I was detained. Before William could say anything or introduce the others, though, Lord John had embarked upon a lengthy reminiscence with Sergeant Cutter, reliving high old times on the Plains of Abraham with General Wolfe.
This allowed the three young officers to relax slightly, which, in Dobsons case, meant a return to his earlier train of thought.
You said that red-haired poppets a friend of your fathers? he whispered to William. Find out from him where shes staying, eh?
Idiot, hissed Osborn. She isnt even pretty! Shes long-nosed asasas Willie!
Didnt see as high as her face, Dobson said, smirking. Her tits were right at eye-level, though, and those
Shh! Osborn stamped on Dobsons foot to shut him up as Lord John turned back to the young men.
Will you introduce me to your friends, William? Lord John inquired politely. Rather red in the facehe had reason to know that his father had acute hearing, despite his artillery experiencesWilliam did so, and Osborn and Dobson both bowed, looking rather awed. They hadnt realized who his father was, and William was at once proud that they were impressed, and mildly dismayed that theyd discovered Lord Johns identityit would be all over the battalion before supper tomorrow. Not that Sir Peter didnt know, of course, but
He gathered his wits, realizing that his father was taking leave for them both, and returned Sergeant Cutters salute, hastily but in good form, before hurrying after his father, leaving Dobby and Osborn to their fate.
I saw you speaking to Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie, Lord John said casually. I trust they are well? He glanced down the quay, but the MacKenzies had long since disappeared from view.
Seemed so, Willie said. He was not going to ask where they stayed, but the impression the young woman had made on him lingered. He couldnt say if she was pretty or not; her eyes had struck him, thougha wonderful deep blue with long auburn lashes, and fixed on him with a flattering intensity that had warmed the cockles of his heart. Grotesquely tall, of course, butwhat was he thinking? The woman was marriedwith children! And red-haired, to boot.
Youveerknown them long? he asked, thinking of the startlingly perverse political sentiments that evidently flourished in the family.
Quite some time. She is the daughter of one of my oldest friends, Mr. James Fraser. Do you recall him, by chance?
William frowned, not placing the namehis father had thousands of friends, how should he
Oh! he said. Not an English friend, you dont mean. Was it not a Mr. Fraser that we visited in the mountains, that time when you fell sick of theof the measle? The bottom of his stomach dropped a little, remembering the sheer terror of that time. He had traveled through the mountains in a daze of misery; his mother had died only a month before. Then Lord John had caught the measle, and William had been sure that his father was about to die likewise, leaving him completely alone in the wilderness. There hadnt been room for anything in his mind but fear and grief, and he retained only a jumble of confused impressions from the visit. He had some dim recollection that Mr. Fraser had taken him fishing and been kind to him.
Yes, his father said, with a sidelong smile. Im touched, Willie. I should have thought you might recall that visit more because of your own misadventure than mine.
Mis Memory rushed over him, succeeded by a flood of heat, hotter than the humid summer air. Thanks very much! Id managed to expunge that from my memory, until you mentioned it!
His father was laughing, and making no attempt to hide it. In fact, he was convulsed.
Im sorry, Willie, he said, gasping and wiping his eyes with a corner of his handkerchief. I cant help it; it was the mostthe mostoh, God, Ill never forget what you looked like when we pulled you out of that privy!
You know it was an accident, William said stiffly. His cheeks burned with remembered mortification. At least Frasers daughter hadnt been present to witness his humiliation at the time.
Yes, of course. But His father pressed the handkerchief to his mouth, his shoulders shaking silently.
Feel free to stop cackling at any point, William said coldly. Where the devil are we going, anyway? Theyd reached the end of the quay, and his father was leading themstill snorting like a grampusinto one of the quiet, tree-lined streets, away from the taverns and inns near the harbor.
Were dining with a Captain Richardson, his father said, controlling himself with an obvious effort. He coughed, blew his nose, and put away the handkerchief. At the house of a Mr. Bell.
Mr. Bells house was whitewashed, neat, and prosperous, without being ostentatious. Captain Richardson gave much the same sort of impression: of middle age, well-groomed and well-tailored, but without any notable style, and with a face you couldnt pick out of a crowd two minutes after seeing it.
The two Misses Bell made a much stronger impression, particularly the younger, Miriam, who had honey-colored curls peeping out of her cap, and big, round eyes that remained fixed on William throughout dinner. She was seated too far away for him to be able to converse with her directly, but he fancied that the language of the eyes was sufficient to indicate to her that the fascination was mutual, and if an opportunity for more personal communication should offer later ? A smile, and a demure lowering of honey-colored lashes, followed by a quick glance toward a door that stood open to the side porch, for air. He smiled back.
Do you think so, William? his father said, loudly enough to indicate that it was the second time of asking.
Oh, certainly. Um think what? he asked, since it was after all Papa, and not his commander. His father gave him the look that meant he would have rolled his eyes had they not been in public, but replied patiently.
Mr. Bell was asking whether Sir Peter intends to remain long in Wilmington. Mr. Bell, at the head of the table, bowed graciouslythough William observed a certain narrowing of his eyes in Miriams direction. Perhaps hed best come back to call tomorrow, he thought, when Mr. Bell might be at his place of business.
Oh. I believe well remain here for only a short time, sir, he said respectfully to Mr. Bell. I collect that the chief trouble is in the backcountry, and so we will no doubt move to suppress it without delay.
Mr. Bell looked pleased, though from the corner of his eye, William saw Miriam pout prettily at the suggestion of his imminent departure.
Good, good, Bell said jovially. No doubt hundreds of Loyalists will flock to join you along your march.
Doubtless so, sir, William murmured, taking another spoonful of soup. He doubted that Mr. Bell would be among them. Not really the marching type, to look at. And not that the assistance of a lot of untrained provincials armed with shovels would be helpful in any case, but he could hardly say so.
William, trying to see Miriam without looking directly at her, instead intercepted the flicker of a glance that traveled between his father and Captain Richardson, and for the first time, began to wonder. His father had distinctly said they were dining with Captain Richardsonmeaning that a meeting with the captain was the point of the evening. Why?
Then he caught a look from Miss Lillian Bell, who was seated across from him, next his father, and ceased thinking about Captain Richardson. Dark-eyed, taller and more slender than her sisterbut really quite a handsome girl, now he noticed.
Still, when Mrs. Bell and her daughters rose and the men retired to the porch after dinner, William was not surprised to find himself at one end with Captain Richardson, while his father engaged Mr. Bell at the other in a spirited discussion of tar prices. Papa could talk to anyone about anything.
I have a proposition to put before you, Lieutenant, Richardson said, after the usual cordialities had been exchanged.
Yes, sir, William said respectfully. His curiosity had begun to rise. Richardson was a captain of light dragoons, but not presently with his regiment; that much he had revealed over dinner, saying casually that he was on detached duty. Detached to do what?
I do not know how much your father has told you regarding my mission?
Nothing, sir.
Ah. I am charged with the gathering of intelligence in the Southern Department. Not that I am in command of such operations, you understandthe captain smiled modestlybut a small part of them.
I appreciate the great value of such operations, sir, William said, groping for diplomacy, but Ifor myself, that is to say
You have no interest in spying. No, of course not. It was dark on the porch, but the dryness of the captains tone was evident. Few men who regard themselves as soldiers do.
I meant no offense, sir.
None taken. I am not, however, recruiting you as a spythat is a delicate occupation, and one involving some dangerbut rather as a messenger. Though should you find opportunity to act the intelligencer along your way well, that would be an additional contribution, and much appreciated.
William felt the blood rise in his face at the implication that he was capable neither of delicacy nor danger, but kept his temper, saying only, Oh?
The captain, it seemed, had gathered significant information regarding local conditions in the Carolinas, and now required to send this to the commander of the Northern DepartmentGeneral Howe, presently in Halifax.
I will of course be sending more than one messenger, Richardson said. It is naturally somewhat quicker by shipbut I desire to have at least one messenger travel overland, both for safetys sake and for the sake of making observations en route. Your father speaks very highly of your abilities, Lieutenantdid he detect a hint of amusement in that dry-as-sawdust voice?and I collect that you have traveled extensively in North Carolina and Virginia. That is a valuable attribute. You will appreciate that I do not wish my messenger to disappear into the Dismal Swamp, never to be seen again.
Ha-ha, said William, politely, perceiving this to be meant as a jest. Clearly, Captain Richardson had never been near the Great Dismal; William had, though he didnt think anyone in his right mind would go that way a-purpose, save to hunt.
He also had severe doubts regarding Richardsons suggestionthough even as he told himself that he shouldnt consider leaving his men, his regiment he was already seeing a romantic vision of himself, alone in the vast wilderness, bearing important news through storm and danger.
More of a consideration, though, was what he might expect at the other end of the journey.
Richardson anticipated his question, answering before he could speak.
Once in the north, you wouldit being agreeablejoin General Howes staff.
Well, now, he thought. Here was the apple, and a juicy red one, too. He was aware that Richardson meant it being agreeable to General Howe, rather than to Williambut he had some confidence in his own capabilities, and rather thought he might prove himself useful.
He had been in North Carolina only a few days, but that was quite long enough for him to have made an accurate assessment of the relative chances for advancement between the Northern Department and the Southern. The entire Continental army was with Washington in the north; the southern rebellion appeared to consist of troublesome pockets of backwoodsmen and impromptu militiahardly a threat. And as for the relative status of Sir Peter and General Howe as commanders
I would like to think on your offer, if I might, Captain, he said, hoping eagerness didnt show in his voice. May I give my answer tomorrow?
Certainly. I imagine you will wish to discuss the prospects with your fatheryou may do so.
The captain then deliberately changed the subject, and within a few moments, Lord John and Mr. Bell had joined them, the conversation becoming general.
William paid little heed to what was said, his own attention distracted by the sight of two slender white figures that hovered ghostlike among the bushes at the outer edge of the yard. Two capped white heads drew together, then apart. Now and then, one turned briefly toward the porch in what looked like speculation.
And for his vesture, they cast lots, his father murmured, shaking his head.
Never mind. His father smiled, and turned toward Captain Richardson, who had just said something about the weather.
Fireflies lit the yard, drifting like green sparks among the damp, lush growth of plants. It was good to see fireflies again; he had missed them, in Englandand that peculiar softness of the southern air that molded his linen to his body and made the blood throb in his fingertips. Crickets were chirping all around them, and for an instant, their song seemed to drown out everything save the sound of his pulse.
Coffees ready, genmun. The soft voice of the Bells slave cut through the small ferment of his blood, though, and he went in with the other men, with no more than a glance toward the yard. The white figures had disappeared, but a sense of promise lingered in the soft, warm air.
An hour later, he found himself walking back toward his billet, thoughts in a pleasant muddle, his father strolling silent by his side.
Miss Lillian Bell had granted him a kiss among the fireflies at the end of the evening, chaste and fleeting, but upon the lips, and the thick summer air seemed to taste of coffee and ripe strawberries, despite the pervasive dank smell of the harbor.
Captain Richardson told me of the proposal he made to you, Lord John said casually. Are you inclined?
Dont know, William replied, with equal casualness. I should miss my men, of course, but Mrs. Bell had pressed him to come to tea, later in the week.
Little permanence in a military life, his father said, with a brief shake of the head. I did warn you.
William gave a brief grunt of assent, not really listening.
A good opportunity for advancement, his father was saying, adding offhandedly, though of course there is some danger to the proposition.
What? William scoffed, hearing this. Riding from Wilmington to take ship at New York? Theres a road, nearly all the way!
And quite a number of Continentals on it, Lord John pointed out. General Washingtons entire army lies this side of Philadelphia, if the news I hear be correct.
William shrugged.
Richardson said he wanted me because I knew the country. I can make my way well enough without roads.
Are you sure? You have not been in Virginia for nearly four years.
The dubious tone of this annoyed William.
Do you think me incapable of finding my way?
No, not at all, his father said, still with that note of doubt in his voice. But there is no little risk to this proposition; I should not like to see you undertake it without due thought.
Well, I have thought, said William, stung. Ill do it.
Lord John walked in silence for a few steps, then nodded, reluctantly.
Its your decision, Willie, he said softly. I should be personally obliged if you would take care, though.
Williams annoyance melted at once.
Course I will, he said gruffly. They walked on beneath the dark canopy of maple and hickory, not talking, close enough that their shoulders brushed now and then.
At the inn, William bade Lord John good night, but didnt return at once to his own lodgings. Instead, he wandered out along the quay, restless, unready for sleep.
The tide had turned and was well out, he saw; the smell of dead fish and decaying seaweed was stronger, though a smooth sheet of water still covered the mudflats, quiet in the light of a quarter-moon.
It took a moment to locate the stake. For an instant, he thought it had gone, but nothere it was, a thin dark line against the glimmer of the water. Empty.
The stake no longer stood upright, but leaned sharply, as though about to fall, and a thin loop of rope trailed from it, floating like a hangmans noose on the waning tide. William was conscious of some visceral uneasiness; the tide alone would not have taken the whole body. Some said there were crocodiles or alligators here, though he had not yet seen one himself. He glanced down involuntarily, as though one of these reptiles might suddenly lunge from the water at his feet. The air was still warm, but a small shiver went through him.
He shook this off, and turned away toward his lodgings. There would be a day or two before he must go, he thought, and wondered whether he might see the blue-eyed Mrs. MacKenzie again before he left.

LORD JOHN LINGERED for a moment on the porch of the inn, watching his son vanish into the shadows under the trees. He had some qualms; the matter had been arranged with more haste than he would have likedbut he did have confidence in Williams abilities. And while the arrangement clearly had its risks, that was the nature of a soldiers life. Some situations were riskier than others, though.
He hesitated, hearing the buzz of talk from the taproom inside, but he had had enough of company for the night, and the thought of tossing to and fro under the low ceiling of his room, stifling in the days trapped heat, determined him to walk about until bodily exhaustion should ensure sleep.
It wasnt just the heat, he reflected, stepping off the porch and setting off in the opposite direction to the one Willie had taken. He knew himself well enough to realize that even the apparent success of his plan would not prevent his lying awake, worrying at it like a dog with a bone, testing for weaknesses, seeking for ways of improvement. After all, William would not depart immediately; there was a little time to consider, to make alterations, should that be necessary.
General Howe, for instance. Had that been the best choice? Perhaps Clinton but no. Henry Clinton was a fussy old woman, unwilling to stir a foot without orders in triplicate.
The Howe brothersone a general, one an admiralwere famously uncouth, both having the manners, aspect, and general aroma of boars in rut. Neither of them was stupid, thoughGod knew they werent timidand Grey thought Willie fully capable of surviving rough manners and harsh words. And a commander given to spitting on the floorRichard Howe had once spat on Grey himself, though this was largely accidental, the wind having changed unexpectedlywas possibly easier for a young subaltern to deal with than the quirks of some other military gentlemen of Greys acquaintance.
Though even the most peculiar of the brotherhood of the blade was preferable to the diplomats. He wondered idly what the term of venery might be for a collection of diplomats. If writers formed the brotherhood of the quill, and a group of foxes be termed a skulk a stab of diplomats, perhaps? Brothers of the stiletto? No, he decided. Much too direct. An opiate of diplomats, more like. Brotherhood of the boring. Though the ones who were not boring could be dangerous, on occasion.
Sir George Germain was one of the rarer sorts: boring and dangerous.
He walked up and down the streets of the town for some time, in hopes of exhausting himself before going back to his small, stuffy room. The sky was low and sullen, with heat lightning flickering among the clouds, and the atmosphere was damp as a bath sponge. He should have been in Albany by nowno less humid and bug-ridden, but somewhat cooler, and near the sweet dark forests of the Adirondacks.
Still, he didnt regret his hasty journey to Wilmington. Willie was sorted; that was the important thing. And Willies sister, Briannahe stopped dead for a moment, eyes closed, reliving the moment of transcendence and heartbreak he had experienced that afternoon, seeing the two of them together for what would be their only meeting, ever. Hed scarcely been able to breathe, his eyes fixed on the two tall figures, those handsome, bold faces, so alikeand both so like the man who had stood beside him, unmoving, but by contrast with Grey, taking in great tearing gulps of air, as though he feared he might never breathe again.
Grey rubbed idly at his left ring finger, not yet accustomed to finding it bare. He and Jamie Fraser had done the best they could to safeguard those they loved, and despite his melancholy, he was comforted at the thought that they were united in that kinship of responsibility.
Would he ever meet Brianna Fraser MacKenzie again? he wondered. She had said notand seemed as saddened by that fact as he was.
God bless you, child, he murmured, shaking his head as he turned back toward the harbor. He would miss her very muchbut as with Willie, his relief that she would soon be out of Wilmington and out of danger overwhelmed his personal sense of loss.
He glanced involuntarily at the water as he came out onto the quay, and drew a deep sigh of relief at seeing the empty stake, aslant in the tide. He hadnt understood her reasons for doing what shed done, but hed known her fatherand her brother, for that matterfar too long to mistake the stubborn conviction hed seen in those catlike blue eyes. So hed got her the small boat shed asked for, and stood on the quay with his heart in his throat, ready to create a distraction if needed, as her husband had rowed her out toward the bound pirate.
Hed seen men die in great numbers, usually unwillingly, occasionally with resignation. Hed never seen one go with such passionate gratitude in his eyes. Grey had no more than a passing acquaintance with Roger MacKenzie, but suspected him to be a remarkable man, having not only survived marriage to that fabulous and dangerous creature but actually having sired children upon her.
He shook his head and turned, heading back toward the inn. He could safely wait another two weeks, he thought, before replying to Germains letterwhich he had deftly magicked out of the diplomatic pouch when hed seen Williams name upon itat which time he could truthfully say that, alas, by the time the letter had been received, Lord Ellesmere was somewhere in the wilderness between North Carolina and New York, and thus could not be informed that he was recalled to England, though he (Grey) was positive that Ellesmere would greatly regret the loss of his opportunity to join Sir Georges staff, when he learned of itseveral months hence. Too bad.
He began to whistle Lillibulero, and strode back to the inn in good spirits.
He paused in the taproom, and asked for a bottle of wine to be sent uponly to be informed by the barmaid that the gentleman had already taken a bottle upstairs with him.
And two glasses, she added, dimpling at him. So I dont spose he meant to drink it all himself.
Grey felt something like a centipede skitter up his spine.
I beg your pardon, he said. Did you say that there is a gentleman in my room?
Yes, sir, she assured him. He said as hes an old friend of yours. Now, he did tell me his name Her brow furrowed for an instant, then cleared. Bow-shaw, he said, or summat of the kind. Frenchy kind of name, she clarified. And a Frenchy kind of gentleman, too. Will you be wanting food at all, sir?
No, I thank you. He waved her off, and went up the stairs, thinking rapidly whether he had left anything in his room that he shouldnt have.
A Frenchman, named Bow-shaw Beauchamp. The name flashed in his mind like the flicker of heat lightning. He stopped dead for an instant in the middle of the staircase, then resumed his climb, more slowly.
Surely not but who else might it be? When he had ceased active service, some years before, he had begun diplomatic life as a member of Englands Black Chamber, that shadowy organization of persons charged with the interception and decoding of official diplomatic mailand much less official messagesthat flowed between the governments of Europe. Every one of those governments possessed its own Black Chamber, and it was not unusual for the inhabitants of one such chamber to be aware of their opposite numbersnever met, but known by their signatures, their initials, their unsigned marginal notes.
Beauchamp had been one of the most active French agents; Grey had run across his trail several times in the intervening years, even though his own days in the Black Chamber were well behind him. If he knew Beauchamp by name, it was entirely reasonable that the man knew him as wellbut their invisible association had been years ago. They had never met in person, and for such a meeting to occur here He touched the secret pocket in his coat, and was reassured by the muffled crackle of paper.
He hesitated at the top of the stair, but there was no point in furtiveness; clearly, he was expected. With a firm step, he walked down the hall and turned the white china knob of his door, the porcelain smooth and cool beneath his fingers.
A wave of heat engulfed him and he gasped for air, involuntarily. Just as well, as it prevented his uttering the blasphemy that had sprung to his lips.
The gentleman occupying the rooms only chair was indeed Frenchyhis very well-cut suit set off by cascades of snowy lace at throat and cuff, his shoes buckled with a silver that matched the hair at his temples.
Mr. Beauchamp, Grey said, and slowly closed the door behind him. His damp linen clung to him, and he could feel his pulse thumping in his own temples. I fear you take me at something of a disadvantage.
Perseverance Wainwright smiled, very slightly.
Im glad to see you, John, he said.

GREY BIT HIS TONGUE to forestall anything injudiciouswhich description covered just about anything he might say, he thought, with the exception of Good evening.
Good evening, he said. He lifted an eyebrow in question. Monsieur Beauchamp?
Oh, yes. Percy got his feet under him, making to rise, but Grey waved him back and turned to fetch a stool, hoping the seconds gained by the movement would allow him to regain his composure. Finding that they didnt, he took another moment to open the window, and stood for a couple of lungfuls of the thick, dank air, before turning back and taking his own seat.
How did that happen? he asked, affecting casualness. Beauchamp, I mean. Or is it merely a nom de guerre?
Oh, no. Percy took up his lace-trimmed handkerchief and dabbed sweat delicately from his hairlinewhich was beginning to recede, Grey noted. I married one of the sisters of the Baron Amandine. The family name is Beauchamp; I adopted it.


A Troubling of the Waters

Blood, Sweat, and Pickles

:   9781409103622
:   18
:   655
:   196x 130x 54
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