An avalanche of news had fallen on George Granger.He’d been sitting in a daze for a quarter of an hour, staring at the letters from Caroline and Spencer, without re-reading them.His mind was reeling with the path he knew he must take.
He stood up, put the letters in his pocket, donned his coat and went out onto the quarterdeck.Night had fallen, but that didn’t really make much difference as far as the temperature went; it was normally as cold during the nights as during the day.Granger had been expecting the same blustering winds mixed with snow or ice that had seemed to plague them, but tonight it was actually pleasant.Since Valiant wasn’t under sail, and with the winds down to nothing more than the occasional breeze, it seemed almost mystical. That surreal feeling was augmented by the fact that, since Valiant was in port, there were not many men on deck.Those who were studiously avoided their captain.
Granger’s mind went first to Caroline’s letter.He almost laughed out loud at Freddie getting the nickname Freck.And Bertie was to become an Irish peer: Lord Blakeney.Bertie would be pleased.Granger thought of how caustic Bertie’s letter to Freddy would be after he learned about his title.There was an intense rivalry between the two of them, so Bertie would gloat in a very pleasant, backhanded way.Freddy would console himself with his marquessate, while he burned internally at the jibes Bertie launched at him.
His mind shifted to the machinations of his father-in-law.Granger had never liked the man, and it was a feeling he was sure Lord Heathford reciprocated.Granger suspected that much of that had to do with politics, since he and Caroline tended to support Whigs, while Heathford was a die-hard Tory.It would have been the decent thing for Heathford to discuss his plans with him, but Granger had never known Heathford to think of anyone but himself.He thought briefly of how funny it would be to raise Alexander to be a disciple of Burke and Fox, to indoctrinate him as a fervent Whig, thence to inherit Heathford’s title.
He smiled ruefully when he remembered that while his family may be dysfunctional, it certainly wasn’t worse than most.Granger almost laughed again when he thought about Lord and Lady Spencer, both so polished and refined, dealing with the endless scandals Spencer’s two sisters produced.The Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Bessborough would accumulate astronomical gambling losses, but neither would tell their husbands, and so they were plagued by creditors.Meanwhile, Lord Bessborough was even worse than his wife.Granger had seen him gambling at Brooks, where he had a reputation for playing all night long.Watching him play, you could see it was an activity that just consumed him.Granger wondered how many illegitimate children those ladies had given birth to.Davina was the Duchess of Devonshire’s sister in law, so as was all too common in British Aristocratic circles, everyone was related to everyone else, so it was in effect one family.In that tight world, it would almost seem inevitable that the Duke of Portland and his son would heal their rift, but Granger was glad that Cavendish had opted to stay with him and Caroline, as it would give him the independence that he needed and craved.
As Granger’s mind began to veer back to the metal cases he’d gotten from Cochrane, it seemed logical that he would also think of the Guild.When he had spent time with Talleyrand in Paris, he could not help but notice how even though Talleyrand relied on them extensively, bankers always occupied a much lower position in his social hierarchy.It was the mind-set of the ancien regime.Granger tended to share that attitude, primarily because of the total focus on money the Guild seemed to have.When he’d met Baring and his brothers in London, he’d felt a gulf between them, as if they did not have the same frame of reference.In any event, he didn’t need the Guild to befriend him, he would be quite happy if they’d leave him and his family alone.
His stream of consciousness flowed from the Guild to Lady Daventry.He thought of how Caroline had so aptly summed it up.He was not sad that she was dead, but it did leave a void.Lady Daventry had told Caroline that Granger had consented to be the godfather of their child, yet Daventry hadn’t even asked him until they were on this voyage.Granger felt as if he’d been taken for granted a bit, but then dispelled those feelings, since Daventry knew him well enough to know that he would certainly agree.Lady Daventry had been nothing but a shrew during their marriage, yet she had done her duty and given Daventry an heir.Granger concluded that Daventry would be happy about both those events, and while everyone would know he was thrilled to be rid of his wife, decorum would dictate that he at least mourn appropriately.Granger almost laughed again when he thought about how little of an influence that decorum would have on Daventry.
Granger had been putting off thinking about the dilemma in front of him, because it wasn’t really a dilemma: he knew exactly what he had to do, he just didn’t want to do it.He’d been plagued by von Beckendorf’s warnings, and through him those of von der Pahlen, that unless Granger could somehow convince the Tsar not to hate him, Daventry’s mission was doomed, and Daventry himself could face execution.He had balanced those arguments against the fact that both of those men were presumably involved in a plot to overthrow the Tsar, and their judgment may be clouded by their passion.He also had no desire to stay in this frozen wasteland, and the thought of traveling to St. Petersburg sounded worse than his trip through Egypt.He didn’t want to go to Russia, he wanted to go home to Caroline, Cavendish, and his children.He also knew the pain it would cause him to relinquish command of Valiant.He felt a real obligation to the men and officers who served under him and leaving them here seemed to smack of desertion.Yet even those arguments had not been sufficient to deter him from what he knew to be the right course of action.
But now that had all changed.Cochrane had been sent to deliver his boxes to Daventry, and even had he lived, he still wouldn’t have been able to solve Daventry’s problems in the eyes of the Tsar.Now Cochrane was dead, and really the only person who could get that information to Daventry was Granger.Granger mulled the choice over and over, but there was no alternative.None of his officers would be able to placate the Tsar, and none of them would be able to tangle with bankers and other members of the Guild effectively.At the same time, Weston had shown himself to be an excellent leader and an expert seaman.There was no one Granger would trust more to safely sail Valiant back to England.There really was only one decision: he would have to go to St. Petersburg.
He heard footsteps next to him and glanced sideways to see Treadway matching his pace.Treadway was quite polished, and this was his way of getting Granger’s attention without being intrusive, as he would simply pace along until Granger was ready to stop his thoughts and talk to him.“As we are pacing up and down this deck, I wonder if we are in a race, Major,” Granger said.
“You have been pacing for over two hours, my lord, so if it were a race, you would have already thrashed me,” Treadway said. “I took the liberty of giving Baron Sluitsky the freedom of the wardroom earlier today, and I wanted to make sure that was acceptable to you.”
“Thank you, Major.I had forgotten all about him,” Granger said.
“I apologize, for not getting your approval first, my lord,” Treadway said nervously.Some captains would be furious at Treadway for in effect countermanding his order, but Granger preferred men who took some initiative.
“I have had other things on my mind, and I am glad you handled that matter for me,” Granger said. “And now that you have disturbed my exercise, I think I will go back to my cabin and have supper.”
“I am planning to go into town with the next patrol, my lord, just to ensure all is in order,” Treadway said, referring to the marines who would ensure his crew behaved themselves when ashore.
Granger glanced over toward the town, which looked quite peaceful, with light flickering through the windows.“Alert me when you are ready to leave,” Granger said, getting an assent and a puzzled look from Treadway.He went back to his cabin and found Winkler waiting for him.
“I see you are determined to catch some sort of ailment, my lord,” Winkler said grumpily as he took Granger’s jacket.“First you confine yourself with a man dying of the Typhus, then you stay on deck until you’re frozen.”
“If you think that was unwise, you will certainly think me nearly insane for going to St. Petersburg,” Granger said nonchalantly.
“Well we were already there once, my lord, so going back doesn’t seem to be such a chore,” Winkler said as he brushed off Granger’s jacket.
“I’m not going there aboard Valiant, I’m going there alone,” Granger said.Winkler blinked at that, at having his whole world turned upside down, as it were.
“Alone, my lord?”
Granger nodded.“Mr. Cochrane carried dispatches that must get to Lord Daventry.I must deliver them.”Winkler thought about that for a minute, then nodded.
“When do we leave, my lord?” Winkler asked. Granger smiled at Winkler and his loyalty.As long as Winkler was alive, he would never be in the position Cochrane had been in, of being deserted during his illness and left to die alone.Granger cynically wondered if Cochrane was like Elgin, his fellow Scotsman, who paid his servants next to nothing, and that was part of the reason they’d deserted him.
“I do not want you to feel obligated to make this trek with me,” Granger said firmly.
“My lord, it seems to me that we had this discussion when we went through Egypt,” Winkler replied just as firmly.
“Following me around has its share of dangers,” Granger said philosophically.
“Begging your pardon, my lord, but on that trek, I was most in danger when I was not with you,” Winkler said, reminding Granger of how he and Jacobs had barely been able to flee to safety from Portsmouth to Portland Place.
“You make a good point,” Granger said.“I will give you leave to ask Jacobs first.”
“Thank you, my lord, but I am fairly certain he will agree to go,” Winkler said.“How will we get to St. Petersburg?”
“I am not sure if we’ll be going by ship or by road, but our first stop will be at Arensburg,” Granger said. “I am confident that von Beckendorf can help us with a plan, and more importantly, he will better be able to find Lord Daventry.”
“I suspect there are fringe benefits to seeking his counsel as well, my lord,” Winkler said, being cheeky.
“I think that if you are allowed to have Jacobs come along with you, I should be allowed to have von Beckendorf come along with me,” Granger riposted.
“I did not know that your feelings for von Beckendorf were that advanced, my lord,” Winkler said.
“As advanced as yours are for Jacobs?” Granger taunted, getting a wry grin from Winkler.“I am not sure how I feel about him, but I like him and I enjoy him.”
“I understand, my lord,” Winkler said.“I will begin preparing for a lengthy journey.”
“Thank you,” Granger said.“While there is no one I trust more than you, I must emphasize that you may speak of this to Jacobs, but the two of you may say nothing to anyone.I must have a chance to speak to my officers first.”
“I understand, my lord,” Winkler said.“We won’t breathe a word to nobody.”
No more needed to be said on that topic.“When Mr. Cochrane’s trunk comes aboard, I want you to pilfer his great coat for me.”
“Of course, my lord, but is there something wrong with your current coat?I have tried to keep it in good condition,” Winkler said, worried that somehow he’d failed in his duties.
“It serves me well, and you’ve done fine with it, but Mr. Cochrane was carrying two metal boxes with him that contained secret information and money, and his coat was made to accommodate them,” Granger explained.
“Then I will retrieve it and see that it is cleaned thoroughly,” Winkler said.
A knock on the door heralded the arrival of Treadway.“I am preparing to go ashore, my lord,” he said.
“I am going with you,” Granger announced.“Can you see if Mr. Weston is available to join us?”
It was rare to see Treadway shocked, but he was this time.“Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and left to go track down Weston, and to no doubt enhance the squad of marines that would accompany them.
“You are determined to catch your death of cold, my lord,” Winkler grumbled, even as he helped Granger with his coat.
“It is pleasant this evening, and that is rare,” Granger said.He went on the quarterdeck just as Weston hurried up the ladder.He had probably been napping, as the duties of a first lieutenant allowed little time for rest.Treadway and Weston preceded him into the boat, where there were double the number of marines that would normally be sent ashore.
“Thank you for the invitation to come ashore, my lord,” Weston said.
“I am sorry we awakened you from your nap,” Granger said playfully.
“This will hopefully be more refreshing, my lord,” Weston countered.
“Hopefully,” Granger said.They pulled up to the dock and Granger exited first, as was customary, then stood aside while the others disembarked and Treadway got his men in order.
“There are some taverns where the men will most likely be,” Treadway said, gesturing to an area near the waterfront.The noise from those establishments was loud and rowdy.
“We will leave it to you to deploy your men, then we can stroll into the town,” Granger said.“And Major, I think a guard of more than five men is unnecessary.”
“Of course, my lord,” Treadway said, even though he looked a bit frustrated at that.But Granger didn’t want to make a procession out of this, he just wanted to go for a stroll with Treadway and Weston, and it was inappropriate for him to go around a foreign city with his own military guard, at least not without getting permission from the local authorities.
Treadway assigned his men, a corporal and four privates, who dutifully followed Granger, Treadway, and Weston such that they were within visual range but not hearing range.“This is a pretty town,” Weston observed.
“It’s quaint,” Treadway agreed.
“I plan to meet with the other officers shortly, but I wanted to apprise you two gentlemen of my plans,” Granger said.
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said.
“Mr. Cochrane brought dispatches and information that must be delivered to Lord Daventry,” Granger said.
“So we must go back to Arensburg, my lord?” Weston asked.
“No,” Granger replied.“I will go back to Arensburg, but you will not.You will be sailing Valiant home.”
“My lord?” Weston asked, stunned. They were walking up one narrow street and had come to a larger road, and while they made that transition, they remained silent, since there were other people out and about.The local people merely looked at this group of Britons with curiosity.
“I must get this information to Lord Daventry, but Valiant has been ordered to return to England.Evidently the Danes have decided to let Valiant pass through the Sound unmolested,” Granger said.
“Probably anxious to get us out of this sea, where we’re causing so much havoc, my lord,” Treadway said, making all of them chuckle.
“I think you are largely right about that,” Granger agreed.
“My lord, perhaps you could send me instead?” Treadway asked.Weston looked annoyed, since he hadn’t volunteered, but he shrugged it off, realizing as Granger did that if he were going to send someone else, Treadway would be the best candidate.That is exactly why Granger wanted to have Treadway here when they discussed it.
“I am certain that you are more than capable, but there is a bit more to it than just tracking down Lord Daventry,” Granger said. “I must somehow meet with the Tsar and get him not to hate me.”
“Then I would submit it is unwise to sink any more of His Imperial Majesty’s ships, my lord,” Weston joked, making them laugh.
“That is most certainly true, and in fact I have received new instructions from the Admiralty to only take defensive action against Sweden, Denmark, and Russia,” Granger explained.“Prussia is off limits to us because of the arrangement I made with Governor von Schrotter for those boats of stores.”
“My lord, you have left us in a sea where there are no enemies to harass,” Treadway said playfully.“That’s dashed unfair.”
“There are enemies all around us, we are just not allowed to attack them, but only to respond defensively to aggression,” Granger corrected.
“His Majesty’s government did not included Prussia on the list?” Treadway asked.
“They did not,” Granger said.
“Then his Majesty must be sorely vexed at the King of Prussia for invading Hannover, my lord,” Treadway observed.
“I would imagine that he is,” Granger said, even though he suspected that the King was all but locked up in his palace, fighting to retain his sanity, and not thinking much about Hannover being invaded.
“Begging your pardon my lord, but I can see the reasons why you are making this decision,” Treadway said. It was very validating for Treadway to make that observation, especially since he was doing this on his own initiative, without direct orders.
“Thank you,” Granger said.“I have a mission on the one hand where it appears I am the only one who can complete it, while on the other I have officers and a crew who are more than capable of fulfilling my obligation to return Valiant to Britain.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said, answering for all of them.
“You’re welcome,” Granger said.“As I was walking for some two hours on the quarterdeck, while Major Treadway was marking the time for me, I concluded that there was no one I would trust more than you to captain Valiant on her voyage home.”
“That is high praise, my lord,” Treadway said, since Weston seemed tongue-tied at such an endorsement by Granger.“And if you will allow me to concur, I agree with you.”
“I am sure your endorsement is quite valuable,” Granger joked, making them laugh.“You can show your appreciation by trying to explain my decision to my wife.”
“Indeed you have found a way to lead me into danger, my lord,” Treadway said, making all of them laugh.
“When will you want us to leave, my lord?” Weston asked.
“I think that the Governor was planning a celebration for our arrival with the stores,” Granger mused.“As Mr. Cochrane’s funeral is in two days, I would expect we would leave sometime after both of those events are finished.”
“My lord, not to be impertinent, but if you were here, wouldn’t that satisfy the Swedes?” Weston asked.
“I think that is a very valid question,” Granger said hastily, so Weston would know he wasn’t offended.He took much longer to formulate his thoughts.The three of them walked on in silence, giving Granger time to think.The only reason he’d set things up that way is because he had just assumed that he’d be sailing with Valiant.It was an indication of how much he was dreading this separation.At the same time, Weston was absolutely correct. Valiant was provisioned and had no reason to dally here in Visby.In addition, the sooner she left, the sooner she could catch up with the merchant ships they’d freed in Arensburg and provide them with protection and assistance for the voyage home.“You raise a good point, and I think it is a wiser course of action.I think that leaving the day after Cochrane’s funeral would be best. If a representative is needed to remain here, I will stay.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said cheerfully.“When will you inform the officers?”
Granger pondered that.“I will be ashore for the entire day tomorrow.”
“We could rouse them tonight, my lord,” Treadway suggested with an evil grin, making them chuckle.
Granger returned his evil grin. “I think that is an excellent idea.Let us return to the ship.I will explain that this late-night meeting was your idea, Major.”
“I fear I have vexed Your Lordship, as you will first alienate me from the wardroom and then compel me to confront your wife with your latest mission,” Treadway said, making them laugh.
“We will see if you are diplomatic enough to survive both of those storms,” Granger responded.Granger guided them back to the dock, where Jacobs was waiting with his gig to take them back to the ship.
“Nice evenin’,” my lord,” Jacobs observed casually.
“I am glad for it, that way you and your men did not have to wait for me in frigid conditions,” Granger said casually, although that was a big issue, both for him and for St. Vincent.St. Vincent had changed the rules for the Channel Fleet, forbidding officers from sleeping ashore so they wouldn’t keep their boat’s crews sitting in an open boat while they were gone.Granger had no intention of mistreating his gig’s crew.
He acknowledged the bosun’s mates and sideboys when he returned, then waited until Weston was aboard to address him.“Mr. Weston, please assemble the officers in my cabin in half an hour.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” he said.
Granger returned to his cabin to find Winkler waiting for him with his mother hen expression, worried that Granger would make himself sick with his forays ashore.“My lord, I had occasion to speak with Jacobs, and we are going with you,” he said firmly.
“That was surprisingly fast, since Jacobs captained my gig and I left shortly after I talked to you,” Granger said.
“I can be fast when I need to be, my lord,” Winkler said.Granger just rolled his eyes.
“I am very glad to know you two will be with me,” Granger said sincerely.
“I’m sure it will be quite eventful, my lord,” Winkler said.Granger agreed with him.
“I have invited my officers to meet with me in half an hour,” Granger informed Winkler, who’s eyes bulged at this new challenge.“I would be obliged if you would make sure my table is ready for them.Perhaps you can pull some food together.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and hurried off to get that done, shaking his head as he did.Granger heard him belting out orders to his own staff as soon as he was outside of Granger’s day cabin. Granger took a glass of port and escaped to his office to stay out of their way, and to begin drafting his dispatches. It seemed he’d no sooner started his letter to Spencer when Winkler interrupted him.“My lord, the officers are here.”
“Thank you,” Granger said crisply.He stood up, straightened his uniform, and strode out into his day cabin to find that his staff had managed to extend his table to its full length, and set out glasses for everyone.“Welcome, gentlemen,” Granger said affably.“Please be seated.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said, responding for all of them.
Granger studied them as they took their places.Weston and Treadway sat there with slightly smug expressions, since they knew what this was about.The others were confused at this sudden late-night summons, but also intensely curious as to what news Granger had for them.“I am sorry to disturb your slumber, but I received dispatches today and I wanted to share that information with you and enlighten you as to our future plans.Major Treadway assured me that you wouldn’t mind missing some of your desperately needed beauty sleep.”
“Easy for him to say, begging your pardon, my lord,” Meurice said with a fake growl, making them all chuckle.
“You may have heard that Mr. Angus Cochrane was sent here to deliver important dispatches to Lord Daventry.Unfortunately, he died shortly after we arrived, living just long enough to pass that information along to me.At the same time, I received orders from the Admiralty to sail Valiant home,” Granger said.He saw their faces light up at that, at the news that they could escape this frozen hell and return to England, forgetting that by the time they got there, the weather would be miserable at home as well.
“That is definitely news worth waking up for, my lord,” Andrews said.They were interrupted when Winkler and his stewards brought some food out, and everyone paused to begin eating.
“Sir, how will we get Mr. Cochrane’s dispatches to Lord Daventry?” Kingsdale asked.Granger thought that Kingsdale seemed to grow brighter and more talented every day.
Mr. Genarro chose that moment to emit a loud sneeze.“I beg your pardon, sir.”
“Unfortunately, we cannot harness the power of your sneezes to accomplish that goal,” Granger joked, then got serious. “Mr. Weston will assume command of Valiant and sail her home, while I will take Ursula and the dispatches and track down Lord Daventry.”They stared at him with shocked expressions now, fully understanding his dilemma, his plan, and why they’d been summoned to this meeting.
“My lord, as I look around this table, it occurs to me that there are many others who are quite expendable, and could make such a hazardous journey instead of Your Lordship,” Andrews said.
Granger laughed at Andrews being somewhat humorous, and at the annoyed expressions of the others at the table.“Sadly, Mr. Andrews, I fear this is a trek I must do personally.”
Usually when Granger had these types of gatherings with his officers to let them know his plans, the business part of the meeting was followed by much drinking, and often lasted for quite a while.Tonight, though, while the food vanished at an alarming rate, there were only a few toasts before it ended and everyone retreated to their cabins to contemplate what these changes meant.Granger stood to usher them all out, and was surprised to find Schein hanging back, and getting an annoyed look from Weston for doing so.
“My lord,” Schein said, “I’m wondering if I could have a word with you?”
“Of course,” Granger said, nodding to Weston to dismiss him.“Please help me finish this food, and this bottle.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Schein said.Granger gestured for him to sit in the spot next to him, where Weston had been, and while he did that Winkler and his staff removed the used dishes, consolidated the food and got them both fresh plates.
“What did you want to speak to me about?” Granger asked.
“I was wondering who would command the Ursula, my lord?” Schein asked.
“Well, I fancied that I would serve in that role myself, as I have been known to captain a ship or two,” Granger joked, getting a smile from Schein.
“I was wondering if you’d give me that honor, my lord?” Schein asked.
Granger blinked in surprise, as this was totally unexpected.“I had not planned for the Ursula to return to England.”
Schein swallowed hard, exposing how nervous he was.“My lord, I do not know if you are familiar with my history.”
“Please explain it to me,” Granger said, since he wasn’t entirely sure what all Schein had done in his life.
“I once had my own ship, and traded in these waters, my lord,” he explained.“I was sailing under a Swedish flag, and lost her to a Russian privateer during the last war. That loss, including the cargo, ruined me.I had to flee from creditors, so I took passage aboard a ship commanded by a friend.That is how I ended up in England.”
“That is most unfortunate that you lost your ship, but having you with us on this voyage has in turn been quite a godsend,” Granger replied.
“Thank you, my lord,” Schein said.“The only thing I have enjoyed more than sailing with Your Lordship was commanding my own ship.I was hoping Your Lordship would allow me to somehow purchase the Ursula and resume that life that I loved.”
Granger pondered that for a minute, and thought of all the issues that entailed, but then discarded those worrisome details.“I have a proposition for you.”
“My lord?” Schein asked.
“To transfer Ursula to you, I must first clear her through an Admiralty Court, where she will have to be paid for,” Granger explained.“I will do that and pay for her from my own funds.You have a choice.You can either repay me whatever that purchase price is, over time, or you and I can become equal partners in your shipping venture.”
Schein stared at Granger, stunned at that offer.He had been expecting to have a huge debt for the ship hanging over his head, and expected that he’d owe rapacious bankers who would charge him a huge rate of interest.“My lord, I would prefer to go into business with you as your partner,” Schein finally pronounced.
“Excellent,” Granger said, and stood up to shake his hand.“I will explain this to Mr. Weston, and you can go over and assume command of Ursula tomorrow while I am touring this lovely city.I will leave it to you to assemble a crew.”
“I had planned, if this meets with your approval my lord, to draft those men we rescued from the Boleslav,” Schein said.
“I will leave you to work that out with Mr. Weston,” Granger said.“In the meantime, I’ll have Winkler begin to move essential items over there, so Valiant may depart after Mr. Cochrane’s funeral.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Schein said, and made to leave.
“One more thing,” Granger said, causing Schein to pause.“I suspect you will need some money to pay the crew and begin this venture.”
“I will indeed, my lord,” Schein said nervously.“I have saved up some money, and when I get my pay and prize money, that should help me out.”
“I will advance you those funds so you’ll have them available,” Granger said.“I’ll arrange it with Mr. Andrews.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Schein said.Granger saw him out of his cabin, and then returned to his office to continue writing.