“The man I brought with me—Tobias Quinn. It’s him I told ye of, when I made my confession before.”

“I remember,” murmured the abbot. “But I could not, of course, make use of that information, given as it was under the seal.”

Jamie’s smile grew a little more genuine.

“Aye, Father. I ken that. So now I tell ye outside that seal that Toby Quinn has it in his heart to take up the destiny I laid aside. Will ye maybe speak to him about it? Pray with him?”

“I will indeed, mo mhic,” Father Michael said, his face alight with wary interest. “And you say he knows about the Cupán?”

An unexpected shudder ran over Jamie from his crown to the base of his spine.

“He does,” he said, a little tersely. “I leave that between you and him, Father. I should be pleased never to see or hear of it again.”

The abbot considered him for a moment, then raised a hand.

“Go in peace, then, mo mhic,” he said quietly. “And may God and Mary and Padraic go with you.”

JAMIE WAS SITTING on a stone bench by the monastery’s graveyard when Grey came to find him. Grey looked exhausted, white-faced and disheveled, with an unfocused look in his eyes that Jamie recognized as the aftereffects of Quinn’s tonic.

“Give ye dreams, did it?” he asked, not without sympathy.

Grey nodded and sat down beside him.

“I don’t want to tell you about them, and you don’t want to know,” he said. “Believe me.”

Jamie thought both statements were likely true, and asked instead, “How’s our wee Byrd, then?”

Grey looked a little better at this and went so far as to smile wanly.

“Brother Infirmarian’s got the ball out. He says the wound is in the muscle, the bone’s not broken, the boy has a little small fever but, with the blessing, all will be well in a day or two. When last seen, Tom was sitting up in bed eating porridge with milk and honey.”

Jamie’s wame gurgled loudly at thought of food. There were things to be discussed first, though.

“D’ye think it was worth it?” he asked, one brow raised.

“What?” Grey slumped a little, rubbing the itching bristle on his chin with the palm of his hand.

“Tom Byrd. He’ll likely do fine, but ye ken well enough he might have been killed—and yourself, too. Or taken.”

“And you and Quinn. Yes. We all might.” He sat for a moment, watching a fuzzy green worm of some kind inching along the edge of the bench. “You mean you think I was a fool to ask you to get me out of Athlone.”

“If I thought that, I wouldna have done it,” Jamie said bluntly. “But I like to know why I’m riskin’ my life when I do it.”

“Fair enough.” Grey put down a finger, trying to entice the worm to climb on it, but the creature, having prodded blindly at his fingertip, decided that it offered no edible prospects and, with a sudden jerk, dropped from the bench, dangling briefly from a silken tether before swinging out on the wind and dropping away altogether into the grass.

“Edward Twelvetrees,” he said. “I’m morally sure he killed Siverly.”

“Why?”

“Why might he have done it, or why do I think he did?” Without waiting for Jamie’s reply, Grey proceeded to answer both questions.

“Cui bono, to begin with,” he said. “I think that there is or was some financial arrangement between the two men. I told you about the papers they were looking at when I went there the first time? I am no bookkeeper, but even I recognize pounds, shillings, and pence written down on a piece of paper. They were looking over accounts of some sort. And that very interesting chest was probably not filled with gooseberries.

“Now, Siverly had money—we know that—and was obviously involved in what looks very like a Jacobite conspiracy of some kind. It’s possible that Twelvetrees was not involved in that—I can’t say.” He rubbed his face again, beginning to look more lively. “I have difficulty believing that he is, really; his family is … well, they’re hard-faced buggers to a man, but loyal to the bone, been soldiers for generations. I can’t see him committing treason.”

“So ye think that he might have discovered what Siverly was into—perhaps as a result of your visit—and killed him to prevent his carrying out the scheme? Whatever scheme it was?”

“Yes. That’s the honorable theory. The dishonorable one is that, discovering that Siverly held all this money—presumably on behalf of the conspiracy—he might simply have decided to do away with Siverly and pocket the lot. But the point is …” He spoke more slowly, choosing his words. “Whichever it was, if it had to do with money, then there may be proof of it in the papers that Siverly had.”

Grey’s hand had curled into a fist as he spoke, and he struck it lightly on his knee, unconscious of the movement.

“I need to get into the house and get those papers. If there’s any proof of Siverly’s involvement in a political conspiracy, or Twelvetrees’s relations with him, it must lie there.”

Jamie had been wondering, during these last conjectures, whether to mention the Duchess of Pardloe’s information regarding Twelvetrees and money. Apparently, she hadn’t chosen to share it with her husband or her brother-in-law, and he wondered why not.

The answer to that presented itself almost immediately: her wicked old father. Andrew Rennie was undoubtedly the source of her information, and she likely didn’t want Pardloe finding out that she still dabbled in intelligence work for the old man. He didn’t blame her. At the same time, the situation now seemed more serious than whatever marital strife the revelation might cause, if it got back to the duke.

“I don’t suppose you’re any more anxious to see him fight another duel than I am.” The duchess’s words came back to him. Ah, he’d forgotten that. It wasn’t only her father she was concerned with; it was what might happen if Pardloe crossed swords—either figuratively or literally—with Edward Twelvetrees.

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“The man I brought with me—Tobias Quinn. It’s him I told ye of, when I made my confession before.”

“I remember,” murmured the abbot. “But I could not, of course, make use of that information, given as it was under the seal.”

Jamie’s smile grew a little more genuine.

“Aye, Father. I ken that. So now I tell ye outside that seal that Toby Quinn has it in his heart to take up the destiny I laid aside. Will ye maybe speak to him about it? Pray with him?”

“I will indeed, mo mhic,” Father Michael said, his face alight with wary interest. “And you say he knows about the Cupán?”

An unexpected shudder ran over Jamie from his crown to the base of his spine.

“He does,” he said, a little tersely. “I leave that between you and him, Father. I should be pleased never to see or hear of it again.”

The abbot considered him for a moment, then raised a hand.

“Go in peace, then, mo mhic,” he said quietly. “And may God and Mary and Padraic go with you.”

JAMIE WAS SITTING on a stone bench by the monastery’s graveyard when Grey came to find him. Grey looked exhausted, white-faced and disheveled, with an unfocused look in his eyes that Jamie recognized as the aftereffects of Quinn’s tonic.

“Give ye dreams, did it?” he asked, not without sympathy.

Grey nodded and sat down beside him.

“I don’t want to tell you about them, and you don’t want to know,” he said. “Believe me.”

Jamie thought both statements were likely true, and asked instead, “How’s our wee Byrd, then?”

Grey looked a little better at this and went so far as to smile wanly.

“Brother Infirmarian’s got the ball out. He says the wound is in the muscle, the bone’s not broken, the boy has a little small fever but, with the blessing, all will be well in a day or two. When last seen, Tom was sitting up in bed eating porridge with milk and honey.”

Jamie’s wame gurgled loudly at thought of food. There were things to be discussed first, though.

“D’ye think it was worth it?” he asked, one brow raised.

“What?” Grey slumped a little, rubbing the itching bristle on his chin with the palm of his hand.

“Tom Byrd. He’ll likely do fine, but ye ken well enough he might have been killed—and yourself, too. Or taken.”

“And you and Quinn. Yes. We all might.” He sat for a moment, watching a fuzzy green worm of some kind inching along the edge of the bench. “You mean you think I was a fool to ask you to get me out of Athlone.”

“If I thought that, I wouldna have done it,” Jamie said bluntly. “But I like to know why I’m riskin’ my life when I do it.”

“Fair enough.” Grey put down a finger, trying to entice the worm to climb on it, but the creature, having prodded blindly at his fingertip, decided that it offered no edible prospects and, with a sudden jerk, dropped from the bench, dangling briefly from a silken tether before swinging out on the wind and dropping away altogether into the grass.

“Edward Twelvetrees,” he said. “I’m morally sure he killed Siverly.”

“Why?”

“Why might he have done it, or why do I think he did?” Without waiting for Jamie’s reply, Grey proceeded to answer both questions.

“Cui bono, to begin with,” he said. “I think that there is or was some financial arrangement between the two men. I told you about the papers they were looking at when I went there the first time? I am no bookkeeper, but even I recognize pounds, shillings, and pence written down on a piece of paper. They were looking over accounts of some sort. And that very interesting chest was probably not filled with gooseberries.

“Now, Siverly had money—we know that—and was obviously involved in what looks very like a Jacobite conspiracy of some kind. It’s possible that Twelvetrees was not involved in that—I can’t say.” He rubbed his face again, beginning to look more lively. “I have difficulty believing that he is, really; his family is … well, they’re hard-faced buggers to a man, but loyal to the bone, been soldiers for generations. I can’t see him committing treason.”

“So ye think that he might have discovered what Siverly was into—perhaps as a result of your visit—and killed him to prevent his carrying out the scheme? Whatever scheme it was?”

“Yes. That’s the honorable theory. The dishonorable one is that, discovering that Siverly held all this money—presumably on behalf of the conspiracy—he might simply have decided to do away with Siverly and pocket the lot. But the point is …” He spoke more slowly, choosing his words. “Whichever it was, if it had to do with money, then there may be proof of it in the papers that Siverly had.”

Grey’s hand had curled into a fist as he spoke, and he struck it lightly on his knee, unconscious of the movement.

“I need to get into the house and get those papers. If there’s any proof of Siverly’s involvement in a political conspiracy, or Twelvetrees’s relations with him, it must lie there.”

Jamie had been wondering, during these last conjectures, whether to mention the Duchess of Pardloe’s information regarding Twelvetrees and money. Apparently, she hadn’t chosen to share it with her husband or her brother-in-law, and he wondered why not.

The answer to that presented itself almost immediately: her wicked old father. Andrew Rennie was undoubtedly the source of her information, and she likely didn’t want Pardloe finding out that she still dabbled in intelligence work for the old man. He didn’t blame her. At the same time, the situation now seemed more serious than whatever marital strife the revelation might cause, if it got back to the duke.

“I don’t suppose you’re any more anxious to see him fight another duel than I am.” The duchess’s words came back to him. Ah, he’d forgotten that. It wasn’t only her father she was concerned with; it was what might happen if Pardloe crossed swords—either figuratively or literally—with Edward Twelvetrees.

Aye, well—he might be able to save her confidence, even while sharing the information.

“There’s a thing ye ought to know,” Jamie said abruptly. “For some time, Twelvetrees has been moving large quantities of money to Ireland. To Ireland,” he emphasized. “I didna ken where it was going—nor did the person who told me—but what d’ye think the odds are that it was going to Siverly?”

Grey’s face went almost comically blank. Then he pursed his lips and breathed in slowly, thinking.

“Well,” he said at last. “That does alter the probabilities. If that’s true, and if it means that Twelvetrees was involved in the conspiracy, then it may be a case of plotters falling out—or …” A second thought brightened his face; clearly he didn’t like the notion of Twelvetrees being a traitor, which Jamie thought very interesting. “Or he was misled in what the money was to be used for and, discovering the truth, decided to put Siverly out of commission before he could put anything into action. I suppose your source didn’t tell you exactly what this particular conspiracy had in mind to accomplish?” He shot Jamie a sharp look.

“No,” Jamie said, with absolute truth. “But I suppose ye’re right about the need to see the papers, if ye can. What makes ye think Twelvetrees hasn’t already got them?”

Grey took a deep breath and blew it out, shaking his head.

“He might. But it was only yesterday—God, was it only yesterday?—that Siverly was killed. Twelvetrees wasn’t staying in the house; the butler told me. The servants will be in a great taking, and Siverly does—did—have a wife, who presumably inherits the place. The constable said he was sealing the house until the coroner could come; I can’t see the butler just letting Twelvetrees march in, open the chest, and make off with everything in it.

“Besides,” he glanced toward the stone cottage where Tom Byrd lay, “I’d thought that once you got me out, we’d go straight back to Glastuig, and I’d almost certainly be there before Twelvetrees could worm his way in. But things happen, don’t they?”

“They do,” Jamie agreed, with a certain grimness.

They sat for a moment in silence, each alone with his thoughts. At last Grey stretched and sat up straight.

“The other thing about Siverly’s papers,” he said, looking Jamie in the eye, “and why I must have them, is that whatever they do or don’t say about Twelvetrees, they’re very likely to reveal the names of other men involved in the conspiracy. The members of the Wild Hunt, if you will.”

This aspect of the matter had not escaped Jamie, but he could hardly contradict Grey’s conclusion, no matter how much he hated it. He nodded, wordless. Grey sat for a minute longer, then stood up with an air of decision.

“I’ll go and speak to the abbot, thank him, and make provision for Tom to stay until we come back for him. Do you think Mr. Quinn will see us ashore?”

“I expect he will.”

“Good.” Grey started toward the main building, but then stopped and turned round. “You asked me if I thought it was worth it. I don’t know. But it is my duty, regardless.”

Jamie sat watching as Grey walked away, and an instant before he reached the door of the building, the Englishman stopped dead, hand already stretched out for the latch.

“He’s just thought that he didna ask me whether I’d go with him,” Jamie murmured. For with Siverly’s death, Jamie’s word to Pardloe was kept and his own obligation in the matter technically ended. Any further assistance Grey might need would be asked—or offered—as one man to another.

Grey stood fixed for a long moment, then shook his head as though annoyed by a fly and went inside. Jamie didn’t think the gesture meant that Grey had dismissed the issue; only that he had decided to do his business with Father Michael before mentioning it to Jamie.

And what will I tell him?

The questions of Siverly’s death or Twelvetrees’s possible guilt mattered not a whit to him. The possibility of exposure of the Jacobite conspirators, though …

“Ye’ve thought it all out once already,” he muttered to himself, impatient. “Why can ye not leave it alone?”

I, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, do swear, and as I shall answer to God at the great day of judgment, I have not, nor shall have, in my possession any gun, sword, pistol, or arm whatsoever, and never use tartan, plaid, or any part of the Highland garb; and if I do so, may I be cursed in my undertakings, family, and property. May I never see my wife and children, father, mother, or relations. May I be killed in battle as a coward and lie without Christian burial in a strange land, far from the graves of my forefathers and kindred; may all this come across me if I break my oath.

The words of the oath they’d made him speak when they spared his life had burned his lips when he spoke them; they burned his heart now. He likely knew none of the Wild Hunt personally—but that didn’t make betrayal of those men any the lighter a burden.

But. The memory of a tiny skull with long brown hair lying under a gorse bush came to his mind as vividly as the memory of that foul oath—and weighed heavier. To leave these Irish lunatics to their business—or to keep Grey from stopping them, which amounted to the same thing—was to betray wee Mairi, or Beathag, or Cairistiona, and all those like them.

Well, then, he thought calmly. That is my duty. And I think the price is not too high.

He should eat, but he lacked the will to get up and go inside. He took the rosary from his pocket instead, but didn’t begin any of the mysteries, merely held it in his hand for comfort. He twisted round on the bench, turning his back on the silent dead, letting the tiredness flow out of him as the living peace of the place settled on him.

The small bell rang from the church, marking the hour of Nones; he saw the lay brothers in the garden lay down their hoes and shake the dirt from their sandals, ready to go in.

And he saw a boy of fourteen or so, his head neatly tonsured, fresh and white as a mushroom, come round the shattered wall, looking from side to side. The boy saw Jamie and his face lighted with satisfaction.

“Mr. Fraser you’ll be,” he said, and held out a piece of paper. “Mr. Quinn asked me would I be handing this to you.” He thrust it into Jamie’s hand and was hurrying back toward the chapel before Jamie could thank him.

He knew what it was: Quinn’s farewell. So he’d gone, then—to use the cup. John Grey would have to find another ferryman. Ironic, considering where he’d just decided his duty lay—but he had promised Quinn to speak to the abbot and would just have to leave the matter now to God and hope the Almighty shared his view of the situation.

He nearly threw the note away, but some obscure impulse of civility made him open it. He glanced cursorily at it, then stiffened.

It was neither addressed nor signed.

You’ve a great loyalty to your friends, and God himself will surely bless you for it on the last day. But I should be less than a friend myself, did I not tell you the truth.

It was the Englishman who did for Major Siverly. I saw him with my own eyes, as I was watching from the wood behind the summerhouse.

Captain Twelvetrees is a great friend to our cause, and with Major Siverly dead, the means lie now in his hand. I urge you to protect him and give him what help you can when you return to London.

God willing, we will meet there and, with our other friends, see the green branch burst into flower.

By reflex, he crumpled the note in his hand. John Grey had come out of the abbot’s office, pausing there to turn and say something to Brother Ambrose.


Tags: Diana Gabaldon Lord John Grey Suspense
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