“You’re right,” Hal said, sighing deeply and reaching for a biscuit. “We owe him. But if he should kill Twelvetrees—there’s no chance of it stopping with a mere drawing of blood, I don’t suppose? No, of course not.” He began to pace to and fro slowly, nibbling the biscuit.

“If he kills Twelvetrees, there’ll be the devil to pay and no pitch hot, as the sailors say. Reginald Twelvetrees won’t rest until he’s got Fraser imprisoned for life, if not hanged for murder. And we won’t fare much better.” He grimaced and brushed biscuit crumbs from his fingers, plainly reliving the scandal that had followed his duel with Nathaniel Twelvetrees, twenty years before. This one would be worse, much worse, with the Greys accused of failing to stop a prisoner under their control—and if they were not openly accused of using Fraser as a pawn to accomplish a private vengeance, certainly that would be said privately.

“We have used him. Badly,” Grey said, answering the thought, and his brother grimaced again.

“Depends on how you look at the results,” Hal said, but his voice lacked conviction.

Grey rose, stretching his back.

“No,” he said, and was surprised to find that he felt very calm. “No, the results may justify it—but the means … I think we must admit the means.”

Hal swung round to look at him, one brow raised. “And if we do?”

“Then you can’t stop him, if he’s decided to fight. Or not ‘can’t,’ ” Grey corrected himself. “But you won’t. It’s his choice to make.”

Hal snorted a little, but didn’t disagree. “Do you think he does want it?” he asked after a moment. “He intimates that he threw Twelvetrees’s treason in his face publicly to stop his machinations before they could go too far—and he certainly accomplished that much. But do you think he foresaw that Twelvetrees would call him out? Well, yes, I suppose he did,” Hal answered himself. “Twelvetrees couldn’t do otherwise. But does Fraser want this duel?”

Grey saw what his brother was getting at and shook his head. “You mean that we might be doing him a favor by preventing his fighting. No.” He smiled affectionately at his brother and put down his cup. “It’s simple, Hal. Put yourself in his place, and think what you’d do. He may not be an Englishman, but his honor is equal to yours, and so is his determination. I could not pay him a greater compliment.”

“Hmmph,” said Hal, and flushed a little. “Well. Had you better take him to the salle des armes tomorrow, then? Give him a bit of practice before he meets Twelvetrees? Supposing he does choose swords.”

“I don’t think there will be time.” The feeling of calm was spreading; he felt almost as though he floated in the warm light of fire and candles, as though it bore him up.

Hal was staring at him suspiciously.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I thought it out this afternoon, and reached the same conclusions that we have just come to. Then I sent a note to Edward Twelvetrees, demanding satisfaction for his insult to me at the club.”

Hal’s jaw dropped.

“You … what?”

Grey reached into the pocket of his waistcoat and pulled out the crumpled note.

“And he’s replied. Six o’clock tomorrow morning, in the gardens behind Lambeth Palace. Sabers. Odd, that. I should have thought he’d be a rapier man.”

32

Duello

MUCH TO HIS SURPRISE, HE SLEPT THAT NIGHT. A DEEP, dreamless sleep from which he woke quite suddenly in the dark, aware that the day was coming.

An instant later, the door opened, and Tom Byrd came in with a candle and his tea tray, a can of hot shaving water balanced in the crook of his arm.

“Will you have some breakfast, me lord?” he asked. “I brought rolls with butter and jam, but Cook thinks you should have a proper cooked breakfast. To keep up your strength, like.”

“Thank Cook for me, Tom,” Grey said, smiling. He sat up on the side of the bed and scratched himself. He felt surprisingly well.

“No,” he said, taking the roll to which Tom had just applied a lavish knifeful of apricot preserve, “this will do.” If he were facing a daylong battle, he’d tuck solidly into the ham and eggs, black pudding, and anything else on offer—but whatever happened today wouldn’t last more than a few minutes, and he wanted to feel light on his feet.

Tom laid out his clothes and stirred up the shaving soap while Grey ate, then the valet turned round, razor in hand and a determined look on his face.

“I’m a-going with you, me lord. This morning.”

“You are?”

Tom nodded, jaw set.

“Yes, I am. I heard the duke and you talk about it last night, saying he oughtn’t to be there, and that’s all well and good; I see that him being there would just make more trouble. I can’t second you, of course. But somebody ought to—to be there, at least. So I’m going.”

Grey looked down into his tea, quite moved.

“Thank you, Tom,” he said, when he could trust his voice. “I shall be very happy to have you with me.”

IN FACT, he was glad of Tom’s company. The young man didn’t speak, seeing that Grey was in no mood for conversation, but sat opposite him in the carriage, Grey’s best cavalry saber balanced carefully on his knees.

He would have a second, though. Hal had asked Harry Quarry to meet Grey at the ground.

“Not only for moral support,” Hal had said. “I want there to be a witness.” His mouth thinned. “Just in case.”

Grey had wondered, in case of what? Some chicanery on the part of Twelvetrees? The sudden appearance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, roused by the noise? He didn’t ask, though, fearing that the “just in case” Hal had in mind involved having someone present to memorize Grey’s dying words—unless you took the blade through the eye or the roof of the mouth, you usually did have a few moments while bleeding to death in which to compose your epitaph or send an elegantly phrased farewell to your beloved.

He thought of that now and wondered briefly just what Jamie Fraser would do, if made the recipient of some particularly florid sentiment of a personal nature, with Grey safely out of neck-breaking range. The thought made him grin. He caught sight of Tom’s shocked expression and hastily erased the grin, replacing it with a grave look more suitable to the occasion.

Maybe Harry would write his epitaph. In verse.

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“You’re right,” Hal said, sighing deeply and reaching for a biscuit. “We owe him. But if he should kill Twelvetrees—there’s no chance of it stopping with a mere drawing of blood, I don’t suppose? No, of course not.” He began to pace to and fro slowly, nibbling the biscuit.

“If he kills Twelvetrees, there’ll be the devil to pay and no pitch hot, as the sailors say. Reginald Twelvetrees won’t rest until he’s got Fraser imprisoned for life, if not hanged for murder. And we won’t fare much better.” He grimaced and brushed biscuit crumbs from his fingers, plainly reliving the scandal that had followed his duel with Nathaniel Twelvetrees, twenty years before. This one would be worse, much worse, with the Greys accused of failing to stop a prisoner under their control—and if they were not openly accused of using Fraser as a pawn to accomplish a private vengeance, certainly that would be said privately.

“We have used him. Badly,” Grey said, answering the thought, and his brother grimaced again.

“Depends on how you look at the results,” Hal said, but his voice lacked conviction.

Grey rose, stretching his back.

“No,” he said, and was surprised to find that he felt very calm. “No, the results may justify it—but the means … I think we must admit the means.”

Hal swung round to look at him, one brow raised. “And if we do?”

“Then you can’t stop him, if he’s decided to fight. Or not ‘can’t,’ ” Grey corrected himself. “But you won’t. It’s his choice to make.”

Hal snorted a little, but didn’t disagree. “Do you think he does want it?” he asked after a moment. “He intimates that he threw Twelvetrees’s treason in his face publicly to stop his machinations before they could go too far—and he certainly accomplished that much. But do you think he foresaw that Twelvetrees would call him out? Well, yes, I suppose he did,” Hal answered himself. “Twelvetrees couldn’t do otherwise. But does Fraser want this duel?”

Grey saw what his brother was getting at and shook his head. “You mean that we might be doing him a favor by preventing his fighting. No.” He smiled affectionately at his brother and put down his cup. “It’s simple, Hal. Put yourself in his place, and think what you’d do. He may not be an Englishman, but his honor is equal to yours, and so is his determination. I could not pay him a greater compliment.”

“Hmmph,” said Hal, and flushed a little. “Well. Had you better take him to the salle des armes tomorrow, then? Give him a bit of practice before he meets Twelvetrees? Supposing he does choose swords.”

“I don’t think there will be time.” The feeling of calm was spreading; he felt almost as though he floated in the warm light of fire and candles, as though it bore him up.

Hal was staring at him suspiciously.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I thought it out this afternoon, and reached the same conclusions that we have just come to. Then I sent a note to Edward Twelvetrees, demanding satisfaction for his insult to me at the club.”

Hal’s jaw dropped.

“You … what?”

Grey reached into the pocket of his waistcoat and pulled out the crumpled note.

“And he’s replied. Six o’clock tomorrow morning, in the gardens behind Lambeth Palace. Sabers. Odd, that. I should have thought he’d be a rapier man.”

32

Duello

MUCH TO HIS SURPRISE, HE SLEPT THAT NIGHT. A DEEP, dreamless sleep from which he woke quite suddenly in the dark, aware that the day was coming.

An instant later, the door opened, and Tom Byrd came in with a candle and his tea tray, a can of hot shaving water balanced in the crook of his arm.

“Will you have some breakfast, me lord?” he asked. “I brought rolls with butter and jam, but Cook thinks you should have a proper cooked breakfast. To keep up your strength, like.”

“Thank Cook for me, Tom,” Grey said, smiling. He sat up on the side of the bed and scratched himself. He felt surprisingly well.

“No,” he said, taking the roll to which Tom had just applied a lavish knifeful of apricot preserve, “this will do.” If he were facing a daylong battle, he’d tuck solidly into the ham and eggs, black pudding, and anything else on offer—but whatever happened today wouldn’t last more than a few minutes, and he wanted to feel light on his feet.

Tom laid out his clothes and stirred up the shaving soap while Grey ate, then the valet turned round, razor in hand and a determined look on his face.

“I’m a-going with you, me lord. This morning.”

“You are?”

Tom nodded, jaw set.

“Yes, I am. I heard the duke and you talk about it last night, saying he oughtn’t to be there, and that’s all well and good; I see that him being there would just make more trouble. I can’t second you, of course. But somebody ought to—to be there, at least. So I’m going.”

Grey looked down into his tea, quite moved.

“Thank you, Tom,” he said, when he could trust his voice. “I shall be very happy to have you with me.”

IN FACT, he was glad of Tom’s company. The young man didn’t speak, seeing that Grey was in no mood for conversation, but sat opposite him in the carriage, Grey’s best cavalry saber balanced carefully on his knees.

He would have a second, though. Hal had asked Harry Quarry to meet Grey at the ground.

“Not only for moral support,” Hal had said. “I want there to be a witness.” His mouth thinned. “Just in case.”

Grey had wondered, in case of what? Some chicanery on the part of Twelvetrees? The sudden appearance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, roused by the noise? He didn’t ask, though, fearing that the “just in case” Hal had in mind involved having someone present to memorize Grey’s dying words—unless you took the blade through the eye or the roof of the mouth, you usually did have a few moments while bleeding to death in which to compose your epitaph or send an elegantly phrased farewell to your beloved.

He thought of that now and wondered briefly just what Jamie Fraser would do, if made the recipient of some particularly florid sentiment of a personal nature, with Grey safely out of neck-breaking range. The thought made him grin. He caught sight of Tom’s shocked expression and hastily erased the grin, replacing it with a grave look more suitable to the occasion.

Maybe Harry would write his epitaph. In verse.

Master me … Damn, he never had found the other line to his couplet. Or did he need two lines? Me/be—that rhymed. Maybe it was two lines, not one. If it was really two lines he had, then he clearly needed two more to make a quatrain …

The carriage pulled to a halt.

He emerged into a fresh, cool dawn and stood still, breathing, while Tom made his way out, handling the sword gingerly in its scabbard. There were two other carriages pulled up, waiting under the dripping trees; it had rained in the night, though the sky had cleared.

The grass will be wet. Bad footing.

Little jolts of electricity were running through him, tightening his muscles. The feeling reminded him—vividly—of his experience of being shocked by an electric eel the year before, and he paused to stretch, easing the tightness in chest and arm. It was the bloody eel that had led to his last duel, the one in which Nicholls was killed. At least if he killed Twelvetrees this morning, it would be on purpose …

Not if.

“Come on,” he said to Tom, and they walked past the other carriages, nodding to the coachmen, who returned their salutes, sober-faced. The horses’ breath rose steaming.

The last time he had been here, it was for a garden party to which his mother had required him to escort her.

Mother … Well, Hal would tell her if … He put the thought aside. It didn’t do to think too much.

The big wrought-iron gates were closed and padlocked, but the small man-gate beside them was open. He passed through and walked toward the open ground on the far side of the garden, his heels ringing on the wet flagstones.

Best fight in stocking feet, he thought—no, barefoot, and then came out from under an archway covered with climbing roses into the open ground. Twelvetrees stood at the far side, under some kind of tree flocked with white blossoms. Grey was interested—and relieved—to see that Reginald Twelvetrees was not with his brother. He recognized Joseph Honey, a captain of the Lancers, who was evidently Twelvetrees’s second, and a man with his back turned, who from his dress—and the box by his feet—appeared to be a surgeon. Apparently, Twelvetrees planned to survive, if wounded.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he? he thought, almost absently. He was already beginning the withdrawal from conscious thought, his body relaxing, easing, rising into eagerness for the fight. He felt well, very well. The western sky had changed to a luminous violet, the final stars almost gone. Behind him, the eastern sky had gone to pink and gold; he felt the breath of dawn on the back of his neck.

He heard footsteps on the path behind him. Harry, no doubt. But it wasn’t Harry who ducked his way under the rose-covered arch and came toward him. His heart jumped; he felt it distinctly.

“What the devil are you doing here?” he blurted.

“I am your second.” Fraser spoke matter-of-factly, as though Grey ought to have expected this. He was dressed soberly, in the borrowed blue livery he had worn on his first night at Argus House, and wore a sword. Where had he got that?

“You are? But how did you find out—”

“The duchess told me.”

“Oh. Well, she would, wouldn’t she?” He didn’t bother being annoyed with Minnie for minding his business. “But Harry Quarry—”

“I spoke with Colonel Quarry. We agreed that I should have the honor of seconding you.” Grey wondered for an instant whether “agreed” was a euphemism for “knocked on the head,” as he couldn’t see Quarry yielding his office with any grace. Still and all, he couldn’t help smiling at Fraser, who gave him a small, formal inclination of the head.

He then reached into his pocket and withdrew a slip of paper, folded once. “Your brother bade me give ye this.”

“Thank you.” He took the paper and put it into his bosom. There was no need to open it; he knew what it said. Luck.—H.

Jamie Fraser looked across the field to where Twelvetrees stood with his two companions, then looked soberly down at Grey. “He must not live. Ye may trust me to see to that.”

“If he kills me, you mean,” Grey said. The electricity that ran in little jolts through his veins had settled now to a fine constant hum. He could hear his heartbeat, thumping in his ears, fast and strong. “I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Fraser.”

To his astonishment, Fraser smiled at him.

“It will be my pleasure to avenge ye, my lord. If necessary.”

“Call me John,” he blurted. “Please.”

The Scot’s face went blank with his own astonishment. He cast down his eyes for a moment, thinking. Then he put a hand solidly on Grey’s shoulder and said something softly in the Gaelic, but in the midst of the odd, sibilant words, Grey thought he heard his father’s name. Iain mac Gerard … was that him?

The hand lifted, leaving the feel of its weight behind.

“What—” he said, but Fraser interrupted him.

“It is the blessing for a warrior going out. The blessing of Michael of the Red Domain.” His eyes met Grey’s squarely, a darker blue than the dawning sky. “May the grace of Michael Archangel strengthen your arm … John.”

GREY SAID SOMETHING very obscene under his breath, and Jamie looked sharply in the direction of his gaze, though he saw nothing more than Edward Twelvetrees, already stripped to shirt and breeks, looking like a chilled ferret without his wig, talking to an officer in uniform—presumably his second—and a man whom Jamie supposed to be a surgeon.

“It’s Dr. John Hunter,” Grey said, nodding at the surgeon, whom he was regarding narrowly. “The Body-Snatcher himself.” He caught his lower lip in his teeth for a moment, then turned to Jamie.

“If I’m killed, you take my body from the field. Take me home. Under no circumstances let Dr. Hunter anywhere near me.”

“Surely he—”

“Yes, he bloody would. Without an instant’s hesitation. Swear you will not let him touch me.”

Jamie gave Dr. Hunter a closer look, but the man didn’t look overtly like a ghoul. He was short—a good four inches shorter than John Grey—but very broad in the shoulder and plainly a vigorous man. He glanced back at Grey, mentally envisioning Hunter tossing Grey’s limp body over his shoulder and loping off with it. Grey caught and interpreted this glance.

“Swear,” he said fiercely.

“I swear upon my hope of heaven.”

Grey drew breath and relaxed a little.

“Good.” He was pale, but his eyes were blazing and his face alert, excited but not afraid. “You go and talk to Honey, then. That’s Twelvetrees’s second, Captain Joseph Honey.”

Jamie nodded and strode toward the little group under the trees. He’d fought two duels himself, but neither had been with seconds; he’d never undertaken this office before, but Harry Quarry had given him a brief instruction on his role:

“The seconds are meant to discuss the situation and see whether it can be resolved without an actual fight—if the party of the first part will withdraw or rephrase the insult, say, or the insulted party will agree to some other form of redress. In this instance, I’d say the odds of it being resolved without a fight are approximately three million to one, so don’t strain yourself in the cause of diplomacy. If he happens to kill Grey quickly, though, you’ll take care of him, won’t you?”

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