The good thing about a cliffhanger is you get the next chapter a little early. Enjoy!
Granger looked at the saliva covered key with disgust, but fortunately there was a washbasin near the bed, and there was soap as well.He thoroughly washed the key, noting not only how small it was, but how thin it was as well.He put it into his jacket pocket, then glanced over at Cochrane’s dead body on the bed.He felt real sadness over the loss of Cochrane, but there was much to be done, so mourning would have to wait.He straightened his uniform into shape and opened the door to the room.Jackson was standing there, anxious to go back in, so Granger merely had to motion for him to enter.“He is dead,” Granger said simply.
“That is a shame, my lord,” Jackson said.“I think he was too far gone for me to save, even if we’d gotten here earlier.They say he’s been in this room for nigh on two weeks.”
“It is unfortunate,” Granger agreed, trying to sound solemn.“We must quickly go through Cochrane’s things.I must make sure that any of his papers are retrieved before the Swedes have a chance to pilfer through them.”They may have already done that, but he guessed they would have left Cochrane well enough alone.“He handed me a key before he died, so presumably whatever it unlocks is in here.”
“Of course, my lord,” Jackson said.Granger found Cochrane’s sea chest in the corner of the room, and that seemed to be Cochrane’s only possession.He thought that perhaps the key was to that chest, but it was much too small for the large trunk, and in any event, it was already open.They went through everything, tossing out Cochrane’s clothes as they did, but found nothing of any significance.The only item of interest was a leather letter case, but it was empty with the exception of a letter Cochrane had started to write to his father.
“We must look through his clothing,” Granger said, frustrated. Granger and Jackson then went back through each piece of clothing they’d previously haphazardly tossed out of the trunk, taking time to fold it and put it back in as they did.They carefully felt each garment for anything that may be sewed into the lining.
Granger forced himself to proceed in a slow and methodical way, which Jackson mirrored.Internally he was near panic, and was beginning to worry that the key to this mystery, the key that was literally in his pocket, would open a lock that had long been disposed of.Jackson got to Cochrane’s great coat, the one he’d use for the harsh winters, and froze.“There is something in here.”
Granger took the coat from Jackson and felt what Jackson had felt:there was a large flat object inside the coat.“Do you have any scissors, or a knife?”
“A scalpel, my lord,” Jackson said, and fumbled through his own bag until he found the instrument.“Shall I do it?”
“I suspect you’re much more adept with that instrument than I am,” Granger said with a grin.Jackson gently cut the lining as little as he could, and then fished the object out of the coat.He looked at it curiously, even as he handed it to Granger.It was made of metal, and was some three inches thick, ten inches long, and four inches wide.
“There’s another one in the other panel, my lord,” Jackson said, and removed the twin case.Granger held the two items in his hands, observing that they were the same weight and the same size.He noted what an excellent design this was.The cases were bulky, but enclosed as they were in a lined great coat, even on a slim man like Cochrane they were probably not visible.Further, having two made them less obvious, since there was one on each side, thus one side of the coat did not bulge out whereas the other did.
“That was good work,” Granger said.He was trying to decide how to spirit the cases back to Valiant when Jackson came to his rescue.
“I can put them in my bag, my lord, and take them back to the ship for you,” Jackson offered.
“Thank you,” Granger replied without hesitation.Jackson owed Granger his life, and Granger knew the man wouldn’t betray him.“I’ll retrieve them from you when I return.See that they remain safely stowed.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and made to put the items in his bag.
“And doctor,” Granger said, getting his attention, “you must reveal nothing about these boxes, not even the fact that we found them.”
“Of course, my lord,” Jackson said.“You have my word on it.”
“Then I know you will take that secret to the grave with you,” Granger said.They exited the room, then went down the perilously steep staircase to find the aide waiting for him.“Mr. Cochrane is dead.”
“I am sorry, my lord,” the aide said. “The doctors did everything they could.”
“Sir, I am sure they provided him with excellent care, but gaol fever is not easy to cure,” Jackson said soothingly.“This was not your fault.”
Jackson had said ‘your’ in reference to those in charge here.“It was not,” Granger affirmed, and that seemed to relax the aide.“Doctor, I would like you to go back to the ship and send some men back to collect Mr. Cochrane’s sea chest for transmittal back to his family.I will have to talk to the governor about a burial plot for him here.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Jackson said, and scurried off to the harbor front to make his way back to Valiant.
“My lord, I would be honored if you would allow me to make arrangements for a funeral and burial,” the young aide said earnestly.That prompted Granger to really notice him for the first time.He looked quite young, probably only seventeen or eighteen, with a slim body and a pretty face, with dark brown hair flowing thickly from his head down to just above his shoulders. Having Granger staring at him so intently made the young man squirm nervously.
“I fear I have been most rude, as I don’t even know your name,” Granger said.
The man blushed and eyed him with what was either hero worship or lust, or perhaps both.“Andres von Galen, my lord,” he said.
“Well Mr. von Galen, I would appreciate that very much.If you have any questions, you may contact me directly,” Granger said, letting the slightest hint of sultriness into his voice.
“I would not want to bother you, my lord,” he said shyly.
“I think it would be interesting to spend time with you, so there would be no bother at all,” Granger said, and clearly used a more seductive tone this time.
“I think Your Lordship may be right,” he said with a shy smile.Granger glanced down and saw a noticeable tent growing in von Galen’s trousers.The young man turned bright red with embarrassment, while Granger simply smiled, raised an eyebrow, and then winked at him.“I must take you to see the governor,” he stammered.
He led Granger over to the town hall and into a nicely appointed sitting room, then exited.He returned shortly and handed Granger a glass of wine.“Thank you,” Granger said, allowing his fingers to graze over von Galen’s as he took the wine.
“My pleasure, my lord,” von Galen said.“The governor will be with you shortly.”
No sooner had he finished his sentence than von Rajalin entered, carrying a sealed packet.As soon as he entered, von Galen left.“I am sorry to hear of the death of Mr. Cochrane, my lord.Please accept my condolences.”
“Thank you, Your Excellency,” Granger said.“I appreciate your kindness in rushing me to his side.I was able to comfort him in his final moments.”
Von Rajalin merely nodded, as he had seen death, and knew there was no need to dwell on it.“Mr. Cochrane entrusted these papers to me, to give to you should you arrive.”
Granger took the packet from him and noted that it was quite large.“I am guessing there are numerous letters in here, and after those sent by my wife, the most important will be those from my government, asking me to account for my actions since arriving in the Baltic.”
Von Rajalin laughed.“I suspect they will be pleased.I just learned two days ago of your stunning defeat of the Russian ships off Kronstadt.My felicitations.”
“His Imperial Majesty does not share your sentiments,” Granger joked.
“His Imperial Majesty thinks he is the autocrat of the world, and not just of Russia,” von Rajalin said with a frown.
“I am not sure he is different from most monarchs in that regard,” Granger replied.
“Alas, you are correct, especially as regards my king.I am hoping that we manage to stay out of dire straits with the wars raging all around us, but I fear we will not be able to,” he said sadly.
“I had heard there was talk of peace, so I can only hope that our diplomats can come to an agreement,” Granger said, which may have sounded like a platitude, but was in fact an event he fervently hoped for.
“We can hope,” von Rajalin said.“I must beg your pardon for offering a course of action, but I had sketched out a plan for your visit over the next few days.”
“Thank you for being so organized,” Granger said.He was desperate to return to his ship and see what was in those cases Cochrane had brought with him, and almost as anxious to read the communiques in the packet he was holding.The last thing he wanted to do was spend his time meeting Swedish Burghers and their fat wives.
“If I were in your position, I would be most anxious to return to my ship and pore over my dispatches, so that is what I propose for today,” von Rajalin said.
“Your Excellency, that is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me,” Granger said sincerely, so glad that von Rajalin had understood what he needed.
“I have often been in your situation,” he replied. “Tomorrow, I would like you to come ashore in the morning and I will give you a tour of our city.My weather experts promise me sunshine, at least, and that is a rarity.We should take advantage of that.”
“Then I will plan to arrive an hour after dawn, if that meets with Your Excellency’s approval,” Granger said.
“Perfect,” von Rajalin replied.“I will probably keep you here for the day, and as we are known to enjoy our suppers, and they sometimes last late into the night, I will prepare a room should you wish to stay and not return to your ship.”
“Thank you,” Granger replied.
“I am unsure as to whether or not you will permit your men shore leave, but the townspeople would welcome them as long as they have money to spend,” he said, making Granger chuckle.
“I have been lucky with prize money, and my men have shared in that bounty,” Granger said with a smile.“Would it be acceptable for us to limit the leave to parties of fifty at a time?”
“I think that would be manageable,” von Rajalin said.
“I will also have a few marines ashore to help keep order, if that is acceptable,” Granger offered. Von Rajalin nodded his assent.
“My aide is planning Mr. Cochrane’s funeral and making burial arrangements for him,” von Rajalin said.“I thought we could have that ceremony the day after tomorrow.”
“Mr. von Galen is most helpful, Your Excellency,” Granger said.
“He has served me only briefly, but he has served me well,” von Rajalin said.“I will have him escort you back to your ship, and I will see you tomorrow.” He stood up, as did Granger, and then guided Granger out of the sitting room where von Galen was there to guide him down to the waterfront.
“The governor’s barge will take you back to your ship, and I will be here to meet you in the morning,” von Galen said, as he led Granger over to a nicely appointed pinnace.“His Excellency had expected that you would bring two or three officers with you.”
“I will look forward to that,” Granger said, and shook his hand, allowing his fingers to linger as he did.He almost laughed when von Galen blushed, then entered the boat for the brief trip to Valiant.
Valiant welcomed Granger back in her time-honored way, with Weston there waiting for orders.“Welcome back, my lord.”
“Thank you, Mr. Weston,” Granger said.“I am committed to spend the day ashore tomorrow, and I must choose a few officers to join me.Please alert Major Treadway, Lord Kingsdale, and Mr. Genarro that they are the lucky members of my entourage.I must be ashore an hour after dawn.”
“I will let those gentlemen know they will be busy tomorrow, my lord,” he said with a grin.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Cochrane died shortly after I arrived,” Granger said sadly.
“The doctor had informed us, my lord,” Weston said. “Most unfortunate.”
“Indeed,” Granger agreed somberly.“We will have a funeral for him in a few days.In the meantime, the governor has agreed that our men may have shore leave in parties of no more than fifty men at a time.I will leave it to you to coordinate that, and to work with Major Treadway to ensure that there are marines ashore to make sure our men behave themselves.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.Granger merely nodded, and entered his sanctuary, glad to finally be able to address the urgent matters he knew waited for him.
“Let me take that coat,” Winkler said, helping Granger with his outer garment.
“Please send for Doctor Jackson,” Granger said, and saw the worried look on Winkler’s face.“I am fine, but he carried some things back here for me.”
“Of course, my lord,” Winkler said.
“After I meet with the doctor, I would like my dinner, and I only want to be disturbed if it is an important matter,” Granger continued, piling directives on his overworked but organized steward.“Tomorrow, I’ll be ashore for the whole day, and will probably spend the night there.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Winker said, and scurried off to attend to his directions.
Granger could have gone in his office to work, but he opted instead to sit at his dining room table, where the sunlight would make reading easier.He had just sat down and unsealed his packet when Jackson arrived, carrying his bag.Granger was concerned lest the crew see him enter with his instruments and conclude that Granger was ill, but the alternative was to just carry the boxes out in the open, so Jackson had obviously made the correct decision.“Here are the boxes, my lord,” Jackson said, handing them to Granger.
“Thank you, Doctor,” Granger said, and was surprised when Jackson continued to stand in front of him.
“I was wondering, my lord, if you would mind if I went ashore and talked with some of my Swedish colleagues?” Jackson asked.
“Certainly,” Granger replied.“You may remain ashore for the next two nights if that suits.”
“Thank you, my lord,” he said, and left.Winkler took that opportunity to come in with his dinner and laid out the food.
“Thank you, Winkler,” Granger said politely.
“I will see that you are not disturbed, my lord,” and left the room.
Granger took the key out from his jacket and lined it up with the first box. It was a very snug fit, and Granger had a hard time getting it in.He took a bite of his dinner, a delicious meal of some sort of Baltic fish in a butter sauce.Inspired, Granger dipped the key in the sauce, and the butter lubricated it enough so that it slid right in.The boxes were entirely smooth, with the only thing making them appear to be different than a slab of metal was the keyhole, and even that was almost hidden.Granger turned the key and heard a click, and the flat end of the box lifted up on its own.Granger paused to study the contraption.Normally the lid of the box would be visible as a seam, but in this case, it had been built into the edge of the box and was almost invisible.
He opened the box and found a stack of papers, most of which looked as if they were commercial in nature.Underneath these papers was a layer of square canvas containers.Granger took one out and squeezed it in his hand and it crinkled, arousing his curiosity.He took his knife and sliced off a bit of fish and ate it, then used the knife to slit open the canvas.Precious stones spilled out all over his table.Granger hastily scooped them up, noting that this packet appeared to contain rubies.He used his knife to slice a small piece of one of the other packets and found this one contained diamonds.As the other ones felt similar, he assumed they were packed full of precious stones.Presumably it was easier to transmit large amounts of money in the form of gems as opposed to gold, as these would take up less space.Granger wondered how Daventry was supposed to convert these into cash.This moment reminded him of going through the chests they’d retrieved in Rhodes, only then he’d had Daventry there to help him interpret things, whereas here he was on his own.
There was a sealed envelope addressed to Daventry, while the rest of the papers appeared to be bills of exchange.Granger normally would not open someone else’s mail, but he decided that in this situation, it was merited.He put all the gems and notes back in the boxes, sealed up one of them, and laid out the letter and read it while he finished eating his dinner.Granger was not surprised to find the letter written in Pitt’s own hand, although as there was no signature, so he only knew that because he was familiar with the Prime Minister’s handwriting.
When you departed for the Baltic, we did not have the necessary financial arrangements in place for you to help those who are friendly to the interests of our government.Enclosed you will find gems and bank drafts, guaranteed by His Majesty’s Government, along with a letter of introduction from the chairman of Hope & Co. Bank.You will seek out the gentleman who is in charge of Hope’s correspondent branch in St. Petersburg, Mr. Henri Labouchere, who will then act as your agent in liquidating the gemstones and redeeming the government drafts.Mr. Labouchere is responsible for obtaining the best price for said gemstones and drafts, and his performance in this task is guaranteed by Hope & Co.You are responsible for how those funds are spent, so I will task you to take good care of His Majesty’s funds, and to expect your expenditures to be fully audited upon completion of your mission.
Granger was familiar with Hope and his bank, and knew that they were closely allied to Barings Bank.He also knew that both Hope and Baring were involved with the Guild.Granger wondered if the détente they had established with that entity was still in force.
Granger stared at the letter and pondered its meaning.Without these documents and gems, Daventry’s mission to Russia was nothing more than an exercise in futility.Daventry could pledge his own funds, but this Mr. Labouchere would be unlikely to give him as much as he needed based on his own holdings, and he was even more unlikely to give Daventry a fair deal.Then again, without this communique from Pitt, would Daventry even know to seek out Labouchere?Granger shook his head at the idiocy of these ministers who had sent Daventry off to fight a battle without weapons.It was absolutely vital that these boxes and this information get to Daventry.
Granger began to ponder what the government had intended, then remembered the packet he had received.He finished his dinner, then put the letter in the box and closed it up, like the other one, and put both of them in his safe, then took his packet of information to his gallery where he could enjoy the albeit fading sunlight.
He sorted through the letters and pulled out those from Caroline and Spencer.He read Caroline’s first.
I encountered Mr. Angus Cochrane at Court and he offered to take my letters directly to you.I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have a private courier, so I can pour my thoughts out on paper without worrying that they will be read by those with bad intentions.
Everyone here is quite healthy with the exception of my father, who has developed a persistent cough.The doctors fear he has contracted some form of cancer, but we cannot know for sure.That has seemingly galvanized him into worrying about posterity, and he has decided that Alexander is to be his heir.Without even talking to me about it, he asked the King to allow his peerage to descend through the female line, and upon my death, to descend to Alexander.I am vexed at him for doing this without even discussing it with me, but my anger is offset by seeing the horrible condition of his health.I am even more angry that he did not bother to talk to you about it, which he admitted when I cornered him, and I truly am sorry about his behavior.I hope that in the end you are not as angry as I am, and that you will see this as a positive event for Alexander. As our second son, he will inherit my father’s title, which will give him both money and a seat in the Lords.
I am so glad you sent Cavendish here.He has been a wonderful source of strength for me, and has been terrific with the children, who adore him.Charlotte mispronounced ‘Frederick” and called him ‘Freck’, and that has stuck as his nickname.The children call him Uncle Freck, which is appropriate as I feel that he is the brother I never had.His father refused to speak to him on his return to England, but I think once he realized that Cavendish was established here and had no need of His Grace’s support, the Duke must have given up on that strategy.Cavendish has told me they have had chilly but civil conversations, and even that trifling a change in the Duke of Portland’s attitude has considerably improved Cavendish’s mood and outlook.
Your actions in the Baltic have transformed the Guild from being one of your sworn enemies into one of your biggest cheerleaders. Evidently the way you brilliantly saved those merchant ships off Denmark and the other much larger group in your engagement with the Russian frigates caused their change of heart.Those cargos were evidently quite valuable, and as we know, nothing motivates that group more than money. I will never trust those people entirely, but I am told that they are quite influential in Russia, and if you should encounter members of that association, at this point it is more likely they will try to help you than to hurt you.
Another transformation in your favor is the opinion of Lord Whitworth, who was smarting from having you, Daventry, and Cavendish call him out for his disastrous agreement with Denmark.Of course, he was influential enough to have the issues with that swept under the rug, and I did not press the issue, nor did Cavendish, which seemed to have placated him.I saw him at Carlton House and he told me that you were performing marvelously, but he was concerned that you were perhaps too successful, and that you would antagonize the Tsar to the detriment of our hope for a rapprochement with him. I ran into Lord Grenville a few days later and he said much the same thing.
I had occasion to ask Lord Spencer about it as well, but he was noncommittal at best.He has been preoccupied with the government, which continues to teeter on the edge of dissolution with no sign of compromise between Mr. Pitt and the King on Catholic Emancipation.He has also been preoccupied with his sisters, who continue to cause him problems.I think Lady Spencer would be happy to be rid of both of them.The Duchess of Devonshire is blind in one eye and has lost most of her beauty, but that has not stopped her from losing money at the tables.She gambles almost as obsessively as her sister, Lady Bessborough, although it is hard to feel badly toward that poor woman, who is stuck in a marriage to Lord Bessborough, who does nothing but abuse her. Davina has played with both of them often, and it is my understanding that she has been the fortunate recipient of many of their runs of bad luck. The Duchess of Devonshire is to marry her eldest daughter off to Lord Morpeth next year.We will have to hope that her marriage is happier than that of her mother and her aunt.
Your parents are much the same, but the big news is about Bertie.I remember you sharing your discussion with Lord Chartley when you were arriving in Calcutta, where Chartley described Lord Wellesley as ‘having the blatant ambition and insatiable greed typical of Irish peers’ and Bertie had responded that he should thus become an Irish peer.He is to get his wish.He is to be created the Baron Blakeney, although I forget the exact Irish County that peerage is associated with.Evidently his ventures in India have been quite successful, and John Company pressed the government to reward him for doing their dirty work so well and so profitably.
I fear that I have saved all the sad news for the end of my letter, so I promise to try and structure things in a better way in the future so I do not leave you with unhappy thoughts.The King has shown no signs of improvement, and if anything, is rumored to be worse.It is very difficult to get clear answers regarding his condition, as the Palace has all but put an iron ring around him and only the most loyal are allowed access to him.Your father speaks of him in vague and placating terms, which I find patronizing, especially since we are all on the same team as it were, but I have opted to save all my annoyance for my own father, so I have not called him on it.
I happened upon Lady Daventry a couple of months ago, before she retired to Northumberland, and she was quite obviously with child.I was quite stunned by that, as she is not attractive, she is not known to have lovers, and she and her husband detest each other.I wondered if perhaps it was a divine conception, but I learned that she and Lord Daventry had since reached a rapprochement, and things had thawed enough for them to conceive a child.She informed me that Lord Daventry had asked that you be the godfather of their child, and that you had consented, which was quite the surprise to me.She also asked me to stand as the child’s godmother, which I agreed to do.
I subsequently learned that Lady Daventry had a healthy baby boy, whom she named Robert Charles George Daventry, but she died of complications after his birth.Her family attempted to step in and stand as parents to the child, but Lady Daventry left explicit instructions on how her estate was to be handled in the event of her death, and she was quite clear that we are to be his surrogate parents.So to that end, I had the baby transported here and have set him up in the nursery.
I cannot say that I grieved when I heard of her death, and I cannot imagine that Daventry will feel any grief either, but it has left me with a feeling of emptiness.Robert is quite animated for a baby, and if that continues, he will have much the same charm as his father.
There is much talk about the possibility of peace with France, and I do hope that happens soon.You have not been gone nearly as long as in the past, yet it feels like an eternity.I miss you so much, George.I long for your return.
All my love,
Granger digested Caroline’s letter on only a perfunctory level, having learned that his family was well and that there were no new knives out for him in London.He decided to ponder all that she had said later and picked up Spencer’s letter.
I am unclear exactly how successful you’ve been with your ultimate mission of getting Lord Daventry to St. Petersburg, as the last I heard you had dished up two Russian frigates and were the unhappy guest of the King of Sweden.Your conduct in capturing those frigates and saving that convoy, along with your actions prior to that, were nothing less than I would expect from you.You performed admirably.
There is some concern that you have been a bit too successful, and that any future victories over Russian forces will only serve to antagonize the Tsar. I will share with you that I am not personally convinced of that, as I think His Imperial Majesty is most mercurial and unstable, but Lord Grenville disagrees.You are therefore instructed to avoid further aggressive action against Russian forces, but please note that this does not preclude you from taking any defensive action you deem appropriate.You should also refrain from taking aggressive action against forces of His Most Danish Majesty and His Most Swedish Majesty.You should continue to treat Prussia as a hostile nation, as His Majesty is still incensed over the Prussian invasion of Hannover.
Your revised orders are as follows:You are to do everything within your power to ensure that Mr. Angus Cochrane can deliver important dispatches to Lord Daventry.If Lord Daventry is still aboard Valiant, you are to follow his directives on where he would like to be landed.Once you have completed those tasks, Valiant should exit the Baltic and return home without delay.We are confident that Valiant will meet with no Danish interference traversing the Sound.
Please accept my fervent hopes for your safe voyage home.
Granger tossed Spencer’s letter on top of Caroline’s, and since he was alone, he allowed himself the luxury of sighing out loud.