It had been three days since they’d left London, and their progress had been maddeningly slow.Granger walked out onto the quarterdeck a quarter of an hour before dawn, even as the men were roused and sent to quarters.As was required in all Royal Navy ships, that is how they met each dawn, with the crew at the guns, waiting to go into action if necessary.
“We are all but becalmed, my lord,” Weston said, and was so annoyed it pierced through his normally cheerful demeanor.
“I will remind you of this moment when we are facing a true gale,” Granger teased, making both of the chuckle.
“I take your point, my lord,” Weston said.They stood on the quarterdeck waiting for dawn, while their passengers stayed in their cabins, presumably still sleeping.Granger winced at the thought of them, and how he hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with Cavendish since their talk after they sailed.
Granger decided that this wouldn’t be nearly as bad if it weren’t for his relationship with Francis Calvert.Calvert had sworn that he’d loved Granger, and then jilted Granger for Gatling.Despite their efforts to heal the wound that had caused, Granger still felt some residual resentment at Calvert for so blithely discarding him.Yet here was Cavendish, doing the same thing. He’d professed his love for Granger, he’d written Granger a letter pleading for help, and then he’d ignored Granger when Granger had returned home.Instead, he’d been tearing off after John Ward like a dog in heat, leaving Granger once again feeling like a consolation prize, a poor reward in the game of love.Granger realized that this train of thought had considerably soured his mood, and that realization just made things even worse.He was about to look for something to distract himself when the lookout obliged him.
“Sail ho! Close in off the starboard bow!” the lookout in the maintop shouted.Granger strode over to the starboard side and gazed off in the darkness with Weston close by his side.
“What is she?” Granger called.
“Too dark to tell, my lord,” the man responded.
“Deck there, brig off the starboard bow,” came the cry from the foretopmast.
“Shall we clear for action, my lord?” Weston asked.He was clearly anxious to get Valiant into fighting condition, but he was ignoring the considerable inconvenience that would cause them and their passengers.
“Let us wait until we know who this brig is,” Granger said with a confidence that wasn’t faked.A brig could cause them no real problems in seas like this, where they were all but becalmed.Even if she were loaded with men, they’d have plenty of time to manage the threat.
“I think I see her, sir,” Kingsdale said, pointing out at the blackness.Granger squinted his eyes and began to see the shape of the ship emerging.
“Looks to be a merchie,” Weston commented, mostly to himself.“Looks to be French, my lord.”That was said with more animation, showing excitement at maybe taking a prize.
Granger was about to begin detailing a boarding party when the sky seemed to get exponentially brighter, light enough for him to clearly see this brig.She was indeed French, and she was quite close to them, about a cable’s length away.Granger smiled as he studied her rigging, and smiled even bigger when he saw her captain panicking as he managed to emerge from darkness next to a British man-of-war.“Mr. Weston, please raise our colors under a white flag.”
“My lord?” Weston asked curiously.Granger glared at him, demanding that his orders be immediately obeyed.“Aye aye, my lord,” he said briskly.
“Please have my gig lowered,” Granger ordered.“That ship is the Corneille, the vessel that conveyed me back to England on parole.”
“An interesting coincidence,” Daventry said.He had managed to come on the deck without Granger even noticing him.
“It is indeed,” Granger said, responding to Daventry.“Mr. Kingsdale, I would be obliged if you would take my gig over to Corneille and ask Captain Guebertin to return with you and join me for breakfast,” Granger ordered.
“Aye aye, sir,” Kingsdale said.
“Couldn’t you have captured her just as easily?” Daventry asked Granger.The two of them moved away so no one could overhear their conversation.
“We could indeed, but if Corneille is this far north, she may have information about the Baltic.I would submit that would be more valuable than taking her as a prize,” Granger said.
“Besides, it seems a bit dastardly to capture the ship and the captain who conveyed you home,” Daventry said with a smile, getting that there was a certain level of honor on the line for Granger.
“It does,” Granger agreed. Cavendish walked up and joined them.“I try to be a good friend, even when others do not return my bonafides,” Granger said to Daventry, but it was as much an arrow at Cavendish.Granger regretted his words immediately, but they had been spoken, so there wasn’t much to be done about it.
“I’m sure that’s quite noble of you,” Daventry said.Cavendish gave him an unpleasant look and walked over to converse with Weston.Granger was trying not to be vexed with Cavendish, but it was difficult.They had conversed politely at dinner and supper, and occasionally on deck, but their words were shallow.His presence aboard in this new state, where he was pouting and it seemed as if their friendship was destroyed, was irking Granger, who bore him no small amount of resentment for ruining what could be a truly wonderful time for both of them.
Granger was distracted as Guebertin hauled himself through the entry port.“My lord!” he exclaimed in a friendly and exuberant way.“What a pleasure to see you!”He embraced the Frenchman in the continental fashion, kissing both of his cheeks.
“I am so glad our paths meet again, Capitan,” Granger said affably.“Won’t you join me for breakfast?”
“I would be delighted, my lord,” he said.There were some kegs being hauled aboard.“I have brought you a gift, some wine I had brought with me from France.”
“I must thank you,” Granger said, bowing in a courtly way.“French wine is truly something we have missed during these war years.” He led Guebertin back to his cabin.
“It is the least I could do, my lord, to thank you for not capturing me,” he said.
“It seemed to be the height of rudeness to seize you and your vessel after you conveyed me home,” Granger joked.“Please allow me to introduce you to my travelling companions.”Granger introduced Guebertin to Daventry, Whitworth, and Cavendish.Guebertin took his seat and seemed a bit intimidated by all of this esteemed company.
“I am not sure if you have heard of our new government in France, my lord,” Guebertin said.
“I had occasion to hear of the Consulate when I was last in the Mediterranean,” Granger said.“Have there been more recent changes?”
“They say that during the plebiscite, 99.9% of voters approved the new government and the installation of Bonaparte as First Consul,” Guebertin noted wryly.“I am wondering who the few were who did not vote for it, and I am wondering if they are still alive.”
They all laughed at that. “That would take a brave soul,” Daventry opined.
“General Bonaparte won a great victory over the Austrians in June, at a place called Marengo,” he said.Granger could almost sense the exasperation of his colleagues, a frustration that matched his own.Could Bonaparte not be beaten?Why were Austrian armies seemingly so ineffective?
“I am sure that Paris is much happier about that than Vienna,” Granger joked.
“Undoubtedly,” Whitworth echoed.
“I am no politician, but I hear things,” Guebertin said in a sly way.“General Bonaparte has returned to Paris, and he is consolidating his power.I am under the impression that your friend, Monsieur de Talleyrand, is assisting him quite ably.”
“I suspect that Monsieur de Talleyrand has as one of his objectives the sidelining of Monsieur Sieyes,” Granger said.Talleyrand’s distaste for Sieyes was no secret.
“Of that, there is no question,” Guebertin agreed.
“I must say that I am surprised to find you so far north,” Granger said.“I would not expect this to be a normal trade route.”
Guebertin shrugged his shoulders.“I was tasked to take dispatches and an emissary to Copenhagen.”
“I hope it was lucrative,” Granger said.
“The government paid me a pittance, and while I was supposed to be able to trade as well, I was unable to do that profitably,” Guebertin groused.“But if I did not do as they commanded, I would face a fate similar to those who voted against Bonaparte.”
They laughed.“So how were things in Copenhagen?” Whitworth asked.
“They are very angry at you British,” Guebertin said with a grin.
“That is something we already knew,” Whitworth said sadly.
“They expect you to attack them, so they are clearly getting ready to defend themselves,” Guebertin said.“Unfortunately for the Danes, that is not saying much.”
“No?” Granger asked.
“Their fortresses are dilapidated, their ships are rotting and unmanned, and their army is but a shadow of what it should be,” he said, shaking his head.“They are like an opera singer with no voice.”
“I suspect that they will ultimately remedy that problem,” Whitworth speculated.
“They have a large fleet,” Granger said, trying to prompt Guebertin.
“Yet their plan is not to use it,” Guebertin responded.“At least that is what I heard.”
“They aren’t going to use their fleet?” Granger asked, stunned.
“If Copenhagen is attacked by your naval forces, the fleet will be locked away in the inner harbor, and they will use the forts and floating batteries to defend themselves,” Guebertin informed them.
“That way, the fleet is preserved, while presumably we will blunt and bloody our own forces with an attack on worthless barges,” Granger concluded.
“It would seem that if our fleet is too bloodied, that Danish fleet in being could represent a significant hazard,” Cavendish noted. That was a real fear, that after British forces attacked the Danes and won a victory over floating batteries, the Danish fleet would sortie and attack the damaged British ships.
“Based on what I saw, I cannot believe that even then they would be much of a problem,” Guebertin said, but Granger wasn’t convinced.
“We have an institutional memory of Danish warriors, so we are prone to be cautious,” Whitworth said, referring to the days of the Vikings.
“In any event, we would much rather be ending our wars than starting new ones,” Granger said with a smile.
“Hopefully that will find a welcome reception in Paris, my lord,” Guebertin said.They finished their breakfast, even as they plied details from Guebertin about Paris and Copenhagen.Granger excused himself briefly to dash off a brief letter to Talleyrand, then gave that to Guebertin and ushered him over the side into the boat that would return him to Corneille.Luckily enough, the wind picked up enough to separate the two ships after that.
Granger spent time on deck, making sure Valiant was on her correct course, then went aft to his cabin to join Whitworth, Cavendish, and Daventry for dinner.
“Your French captain was interesting,” Daventry noted.
“I would hardly classify him as my captain, but his news was enlightening,” Granger agreed with a smile.
“I think it would be wise to discount the observations of a mere merchant captain,” Whitworth said with disdain.Granger saw Cavendish barely avoid rolling his eyes at this snobbish old peer, and gave him a slight smile, one Cavendish returned. Whitworth had a tendency to poke at people, as if to find a weakness and exploit it.For some reason, Cavendish seemed to have the most limited patience with him, and it was a rare meal where they weren’t sparring with each other over some small point or another.
“Perhaps,” Granger said.“While Monsieur Guebertin is merely a merchant captain, my experience suggests that he is much more closely tied to the government than that would suggest.”
“What do you mean?” Whitworth demanded.He did not like to have his conclusions challenged, especially by his younger traveling companions. That was probably another reason Cavendish did not seem to like him.
“Guebertin was the man Monsieur Talleyrand personally selected to take me back to London on parole, and while his motives were certainly fueled by greed at the surreptitious trading he could do, the fact that he was close enough to Talleyrand to be entrusted with that mission speaks to his importance,” Granger noted.
“He seemed remarkably well informed,” Cavendish said, as if to validate what Granger said.
“I would further point out that he was dispatched on a mission to Copenhagen for the government, and that someone who was untrustworthy would hardly be given such a task,” Granger said.
“Well, Granger, if he is as clever as you think he is, then maybe the things he shared with us were fabrications designed to mislead us,” Whitworth said.
“It was obvious that Monsieur Guebertin thinks of you as a friend,” Cavendish said to Granger wryly.“I am also confident that he was very grateful for the fact that you did not capture him.I think that for him to then plant lies as you are suggesting, Whitworth, would make him dishonorable scum, and that seems to be an unfair characterization of a man who appears to be acting quite above board.”
Whitworth fumed at Cavendish’s statement, but Daventry entered the conversation to forestall that from breaking into a full-scale argument.“I think it is also important to note that Monsieur Guebertin gave us much information about the Danes and their strategy, but he did not reveal what France is planning to do.”
“You gentlemen may accept his statement as true, but I will retain my doubts,” Whitworth said petulantly.“And I doubt that Admiral Dickson will be happy about you neglecting to seize that ship as a prize.”That was clearly aimed at Granger, in that Whitworth was threatening to cause problems between Granger and his admiral.
“I am unconcerned whether Admiral Dickson is unhappy that I did not seize Corneille,” Granger said flatly.
“Neither am I,” Daventry augmented.“I think that the information we gleaned, along with this excellent wine, was worth more than Corneille would yield as a prize.”
“Having been somewhat privy to the inner secrets of the Admiralty, I think both of you gentlemen are correct,” Cavendish said, gesturing at Granger and Daventry.That did much to blunt any fears they may have of Dickson, since Cavendish would know if he was an admiral of considerable influence along the same vein as St. Vincent.He clearly was not.
They finished dinner, and then Granger went onto the quarterdeck to check on their progress.It was a gorgeous afternoon: warm and muggy but with a nice breeze to make it comfortable.Cavendish emerged from the cabin and walked over to Granger.“It is a beautiful day,” he said.
“Indeed it is,” Granger agreed.“Would you care to smoke a cigar with me on the poop deck?”
“That sounds marvelous,” Cavendish said, smiling broadly.Granger summoned Winkler and had him direct the staff to set up two chairs on the poop deck far enough away from the skylights so nosy ears, like those of Lord Whitworth, would not be able to eavesdrop.Winkler brought them cigars, while Jacobs helped them light the tobacco with a slow match.When both cigars were drawing well, Winkler brought them a drink, and then left them alone.“This feels much like a yachting expedition.”
“I think you may be right,” Granger said, even as he sat back and enjoyed the tobacco smoke.“I fear that when we reach Denmark, that will change.”
“Perhaps,” Cavendish said.“I think it would be good if you could find a way to relax like this at least once in a while.”
“There are other ways to relax,” Granger said, flirting with him.
“I should imagine that if you wanted a different type of distraction on board, there are people willing to accommodate you,” Cavendish replied playfully.
“I am not that fickle,” Granger replied.“I have focused on one target, and am determined to ultimately achieve my goal.”
“If you are that determined to chase him,” Cavendish said, “let us hope he is not faster than you.”
“He is not faster than me, but he has been running from me for some time now,” Granger said, and let his voice become serious with that statement.
“You mistake his confusion for disdain, and that has made you petulant as a result,” Cavendish teased, and even though both were pretending to joke, they were not.Only Granger had bantered enough, and had finally decided to broach the issue that bothered him.
“You and I have so little time to enjoy each other, I really did think that you would relish this time we would have together,” he said.
“Yet to accomplish that, you all but abducted me,” Cavendish said, the annoyance quite clear.
“You seem upset about that, when I thought I was being quite gallant and romantic,” Granger said, returning to his playful mood.“I thought you would appreciate the way I all but saved your life and then whisked you off on an intimate sea cruise.”
“An intimate sea cruise where we are living in a crowded space with two other peers, one of whom is old and crusty, and surrounded by 300 other men,” Cavendish observed wryly.
“I would say being forced into such tight quarters is quite intimate,” Granger joked, making both of them chuckle.
“Indeed,” Cavendish agreed.
They paused while they smoked their cigars, giving both of them time to think.Cavendish was telling him that he was seriously annoyed at being kidnapped, and at losing control of his life.Granger recalled how he felt when he was a prisoner in France, and even when people had been quite polite, he had still been compelled to be there against his will.This must have grated on Cavendish in the same manner.“In retrospect, I can see how being dragged off to sea would have vexed you,” Granger admitted.
“And I am sorry that I have been so moody about the whole situation,” Cavendish replied.And then they both smiled, having wiped away the cause of their immediate divide with some simple words of atonement.
“Do you love him?” Granger asked abruptly, then immediately regretted his words, both because they were so indelicate, and because Cavendish’s reaction was to almost physically close up on him.With an exchange of glances, Cavendish seemed to understand Granger and his base insecurity about this, and managed to respond in a positive vein.
“I do not think so, but I do care about him deeply,” he replied.
“He is very attractive,” Granger observed, raising an eyebrow playfully.
“He is,” Cavendish said, “but not as attractive as you.”
“I would have thought that was self-evident,” Granger teased, getting a chuckle from Cavendish.“I once told you that you were singularly able to spark a jealous demon inside of me.Sadly, that has not abated over the years.”
“You are not the only one who fights that emotion,” Cavendish said, letting some of his own pain show, the pain he’d had to deal with when Granger had found others to love.
“I am not, but I am most concerned with my own emotions, so they seem more important,” Granger joked, making Cavendish actually laugh.
“If you were truly that narcissistic, that would not have been funny,” Cavendish responded in between his laughter.
“What will you do?” Granger asked.“When I last heard of your travails, you were running around trying to avoid being chained to a shrew for eternity, yet now you have a new boyfriend.”
“I do not have a new boyfriend,” Cavendish objected.“I’m focused right now on trying to get along with my old one.” Granger chuckled at that.
“You seem to be achieving that goal,” he noted.
“I tried to speak to the King, but he was not able to help me,” Cavendish said sadly.“He is so agitated about Catholic Emancipation it has seemingly brought on a relapse of his illness.”
“I witnessed that, and it was most distressing,” Granger agreed.“I was led to believe that his spells were sporadic, but we have suspected that they are worse than that.”
“Your suspicions are correct,” Cavendish said.“His Royal Highness was full of supportive words, and pledged to support me, but he has done nothing, nor do I think he will.”
“You don’t?” Granger asked.
“I don’t,” Cavendish confirmed.“He is self-absorbed and vain, which are bad enough characteristics to have, but worse than that, he shirks from tackling tough tasks.”Granger found that very disturbing, since Cavendish was all but calling the Prince of Wales a coward.
“So what will you do?” Granger asked.
“I will have to be happy with my position as Comptroller and hope that enables me to ultimately support myself in society on my own,” Cavendish said, even though they both knew that was virtually impossible.
“I will help you,” Granger pledged.
“I cannot live off your generosity like some concubine,” Cavendish said bitterly.
“Why not?I think you underestimate the benefits of being my concubine,” Granger joked.
“You may be right,” Cavendish said.“I want to be independent.I do not want to have someone else to whom I’m accountable.If I were to surrender that to anyone, it would be you, but even for you, I cannot do that.”
“Freddy, you could stay with us at Portland Place and save money on the cost of renting rooms; you could eat there and that would save you the expense of sating your considerable appetite; and I would willingly cover your tailor’s bill to keep you looking so splendid,” Granger said.“That should cover the bulk of your costs.”
“With what happened, with that encounter in the baths with Caroline, I could not move in with you without risking fanning the flames of a largely discarded rumor, potentially making it an issue again,” Cavendish noted.
“I think that has largely blown over, and if I am there, it largely dispels the allegation that you are fucking my wife,” Granger said with a bit of levity, then swallowed hard before continuing.“If you are worried that I will interfere with your other relationships, I will pledge that I will not.And if it became uncomfortable, I can certainly provide you with a few thousand pounds to set up your own establishment.”
“You know me so well, you must surely sense the confusion in me over all this, and the uncertainty,” Cavendish said.“It is so difficult to be so linked to you, then to have you gone when I need you the most.I am not sure that linking myself to you that tightly will be a good thing.”
“There is not much I can do about that,” Granger said, barely hiding his annoyance.
“And when you do come home, there are so many demands on your time,” Cavendish noted.“You will need to nurture your relationship with Caroline, your family, and your children.If I am underfoot, I feel like I’d be in the way.”
“In my mind, if you were living with us, then that makes you a de facto part of our family, and the commitments you talk of that would take me away from you would not do that, they would include you,” Granger said.This topic was taxing his patience to the extreme, as Cavendish was questioning his friendship and, in effect, his word.
“I am not sure Caroline would appreciate that,” he said, which made Granger question whether they had healed their own wounded friendship.
“Caroline has been very concerned about you, and has listened to me rant about not being able to communicate with you with similar consternation,” Granger said.“While I have not conversed with her on this topic, I am confident that she would welcome you warmly into our household.”
“Really?” Cavendish asked, surprised.
“We have largely resolved our issues, something we achieved when I returned from the Mediterranean,” Granger said.
“I have been so removed from things I wasn’t aware of that,” Cavendish said sadly.
“She explained to me why she had the liaison with you and Treadway,” Granger said.
“I assumed it was because we were all but irresistible,” Cavendish joked.“Then I assumed it was because she wanted to all but enslave me to support her politically.”
“She was frustrated because when I come home, I breeze in and usurp her position at the helm of our empire, such as it is,” Granger said.“She equated it to how I would feel if someone came in and took command of Valiant, while I was still required to be aboard.”They said nothing for a bit, they just smoked their cigars, while Cavendish pondered Granger’s words.
“I can see where that would have rankled her,” Cavendish acknowledged.
“Now that I have gotten clarity on that topic, we get along quite well,” Granger said.
“Does that mean you are her puppet?” Cavendish asked, a question that would have infuriated Granger if he hadn’t seen the apology in Cavendish’s eyes to atone for his unguarded question.
“It means that when I am home, we must act as one, and that we must come to a basic agreement about key issues prior to that, something we have done,” Granger said icily.
“I can see how that would work,” Cavendish acknowledged.“I am sorry for my words.After this issue with Miss Barnett, I see chains and enslavement at every turn.”
“I am more than willing to indulge you with those, but only in private,” Granger said, letting his voice get sultry.
“That has a certain allure,” Cavendish said, even as he swallowed, hiding his lust.Granger began to wonder if that was perhaps something Cavendish would enjoy, being bound up and all but forced to do things he wanted to do, and adopted a different strategy with their conversation.
“You are floundering around in front of me, trying to figure out what to do, so I am going to give you some guidance, and tell you what to do,” Granger said authoritatively.
“You are giving me orders?” Cavendish challenged, clearly annoyed.
“I am,” Granger said.“You are on this voyage with me, so you will make the best of it, and use this time to clear your mind so when you return to England you will be able to meet your challenges resolutely.”
“That is why you spirited me away,” Cavendish said in an accusatory way.
“Perhaps,” Granger noted.“When you get back to England, you will move in with us at Portland Place.If that does not work for you, I will pay for rooms and provide you with an allowance so you can resume your place in society.”
“I cannot accept such charity, even from you,” Cavendish objected.
“I find your response offensive,” Granger snapped.“When I left the meeting with Lords Whitworth, Spencer, and Daventry to go stop your idiotic duel, I told Lord Whitworth that I did so because you were my best friend.You have saved my life, and you have supported me and advocated for me in my darkest hours, when I had virtually no one else in my corner.So now when you are in dire straits, it is my turn to help you out.”
“You are accusing me of being an ungrateful friend,” Cavendish said, mellowing.
“I am,” Granger said, yielding not an inch.“Your attitude about this makes me worry that there is some ledger in your mind of things I have done for you and things you have done for me, and I am concerned about what will happen if that ledger gets out of balance.”
“That is not fair,” Cavendish objected.
“No?” Granger challenged.
“Perhaps I have been in the political snake pit that is London for much too long,” Cavendish said.
“You are being treated as a pawn, by your father and by others, and that is why you so desperately grasp for your independence,” Granger stated.“You can have that independence, but only if you abandon the life you have built.If you were to accept a lower place in society, you could probably do that.”
Cavendish pondered his words, even as they enjoyed the tobacco and the beautiful weather, while a pleasant silence enveloped them.“You are telling me that I am not in a position to be my own man, such as it is, unless I want to dramatically change my life.”
“I am saying that you are not in that position right now,” Granger asserted.“And what I am telling you is that you need a benefactor to help you land on your feet, at least for right now.I have offered to do that, as your friend.That is the choice you face.”
“You are offering me a lifeline,” Cavendish acknowledged.“And even as you held out that with your open hands, I have rudely slapped them away.I am sorry.”
“I did not say that I would not extract something in return,” Granger said.
“And what must I do?” Cavendish asked nervously.
“You will leave this deck and go back to your cabin and await me there,” Granger growled.“I will meet you there shortly, and we will seal our arrangement by sating my desires.”
Cavendish smiled warmly.“I think I have indeed underestimated the benefits of being your concubine.”
“Allow me to show you how wrong you were,” Granger said, as they flicked their cigars over the side of the ship, into the sea, then headed to Granger’s cabin.