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    Mark Arbour
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Northern Exposure - 35. Chapter 35

Northern Exposure

January 31, 1801

Krasnoye Selo, Russia

 

Granger looked out the window of his room and gazed at the Trinity Church. It was a very pleasing structure, done in baroque style and painted a light-yellow color, and looked as if it could quite easily be German but for the small onion dome on the spire that topped its rotunda. They had arrived here two days ago, and had been welcomed by the local priest, or whatever such a chap was called in the Orthodox Church. He was decidedly more friendly that the Bishop in Yamburg had been.

They’d left that city after staying two days and found that Granger’s caution had been unnecessary. General von Driesen had evidently never found out Granger’s true identity, or if he had, he had done nothing to pursue them. Von Beckendorf had seemed annoyed at having to stay longer in the unpleasant confines of Yamburg and in the presence of an even more unpleasant bishop, but Granger was willing to write off a day’s delay over a very real potential threat. Other than their encounter with von Driesen, the trip had gone so smoothly it had initially made Granger nervous. Normally he would be concerned that such ease was designed to lure him into a trap. In this case, however, he decided that Russia was too big, too bureaucratic, and too disorganized to hatch such a comprehensive plot. The only organization possibly capable of such an endeavor was the secret police, and since von der Pahlen headed that up, Granger was willing to believe they’d be a help to him rather than a hindrance.

Von Beckendorf entered into the room in an abrupt way, carrying a piece of paper. He was smiling and looked excited. Granger marveled at his irrepressible charm and his seeming inability to remain stoic. “I received a message from the Count!” he exclaimed.

That was not surprising, but it was welcome. Von Beckendorf had dispatched a man to take a message to von der Pahlen three days ago, and then had sent another man off with a similar message when they’d arrived here. Von Beckendorf had been very nervous and uptight, being this close to the capital with no real direction on where they should go. It certainly wasn’t the smart thing for them to just breeze into St. Petersburg and stay with his family, who would then be implicated by Granger’s presence. It seemed as if all doors were closed until they had some direction from this mysterious Count. “And what did he have to say?”

“He instructed us to go to Kiryanovo Usadba,” he said. “That is less than 20 miles from here. I just told Winkler and my men to prepare to leave at once.”

“Excellent,” Granger said, resolving to keep his questions unasked in order to expedite their departure. He ignored the beehive of activity that was packing up their baggage and loading the vozok, knowing Winkler would see that his things were handled correctly. Instead he went with von Beckendorf to take his leave of the priest who had been so hospitable. The man was very kind, and it was pleasant to see the look of shock followed by gratitude when Granger gave him a guinea to compensate him for their room and their food. Fortunately, he understood their need for haste and did not unduly delay them with endless statements of thanks. When they were safely on the road, Granger looked at his watch and noted that it had only taken thirty minutes from the time von Beckendorf had entered their room for them to make good their departure.

“We will be able to arrive at Kiryanovo tonight,” von Beckendorf said, his eyes dancing with excitement at having almost completed their journey.

“And what is this place, this Kiryanovo Usadba?” Granger asked.

“An usadba is probably equivalent to what you would call a manor house. This one is owned by Princess Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova,” he said, as if that name should have meaning to Granger, other than sounding strange because every word ended with an ‘a’. Granger’s blank stare prompted him to explain. “She was Empress Catherine’s closest friend and was very helpful when Tsar Peter was overthrown.”

“That would not have endeared her to Tsar Paul,” Granger mused. Von Beckendorf had made it clear how much Paul had detested his mother and admired his father, so anyone who was clearly in her camp would not be a friend of the Tsar.

“It did not,” von Beckendorf said sadly. “After the Empress died, the Tsar forced her into a miserable exile in Novgorod, although it is rumored His Imperial Majesty has recently relented and allowed her to go live on her estate near Moscow.”

“That is most unfortunate,” Granger said, although within the rough and tumble world of Russian Court politics as he understood them, that seemed like a rather light sentence. “So she will not be at Kiryanovo?”

“No,” he confirmed. “She has rented it out, and apparently Count von der Pahlen is the person who has acquired that lease.”

“He did not have a property here in the capital?” Granger asked, surprised.

“Kiryanovo is some five miles or so from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, so it is a bit on the outskirts of town,” von Beckendorf explained. Granger pondered that was similar to the distance from Carlton House to Kew Gardens. “And while the Count has his own properties, renting Kiryanovo gives him a place to meet with people where he will not be seen doing so.”

“So this is, in essence, his headquarters for his plans for Russia’s future,” Granger concluded. Von Beckendorf got uncomfortable when he said that, as he did anytime talk of a coup came up. They never called it that but couched their language in innocuous terms such as Granger had just used, but it was the same thing, and they both knew it.

“It is,” von Beckendorf agreed.

“Is Lord Daventry there?” Granger asked. He’d been so focused on his journey to St. Petersburg, and on enjoying von Beckendorf, he’d almost forgotten Daventry was presumably here.

“I would imagine he is, but I have no confirmation of that,” von Beckendorf said. Granger now smiled and his mood became as ebullient as von Beckendorf’s. Just thinking of Daventry reminded him of how much Granger valued their friendship, and how lonely he’d been after Daventry had left Valiant. He’d certainly had companionship since then, and he had developed a very close relationship with von Beckendorf, but it wasn’t the same as his friendship with his fellow peer. There were few people in Granger’s world that he could fully trust, and Daventry was one of the most reliable of those.

“If he is not there, I wonder where else he would have gone?” Granger mused out loud.

“I am sure he is just fine,” von Beckendorf snapped. Granger paused from musing about Daventry and stared at his traveling companion, who looked quite angry. He met Granger’s eyes, then turned his evil glare away and stared out the small window. Granger blinked in surprise, wondering what had suddenly made von Beckendorf so angry, when he realized that it wasn’t anger, but jealousy.

“Fritz,” Granger said, using his Christian name. He grabbed his arm gently to make sure von Beckendorf heard him. “Daventry is like a brother to me. There are no romantic feelings between us.”

Von Beckendorf glanced back at Granger furtively, and the whole situation embarrassed both of them since von Beckendorf had exhibited jealousy and Granger had figured it out. “It is good to have people like that in your life,” he said loftily.

“It is indeed very good,” Granger agreed. “I’ve known him since I was a young boy, and we attended school together.”

“He was not in uniform when I met him,” von Beckendorf said. “Is he a soldier?”

“I did not continue my formal education, but instead joined the navy when I was quite young. Daventry went on to study at Cambridge, and then joined the diplomatic corps,” Granger explained. He decided that calling Daventry a diplomat of sorts was the best description at this point.

“That would explain why he was dispatched on this mission,” von Beckendorf mused. “I did not get to spend much time with him, but he is quite handsome, and seemed very charming.”

“He is both of those things, and I suspect that within short order he will work his way through the ladies of the Court,” Granger said ruefully.

“I think he will find that easy,” von Beckendorf said. “People are not overly worried about fidelity or other such mores that would truncate one’s promiscuity.”

“I had envisioned things as being different than that,” Granger said, thinking out loud. His impression of Russia so far was of a country that was a generation behind the rest of Europe, or at least England and France. Everything about it seemed old fashioned, especially the clothing, which was hopelessly out of date by British standards. Even the soldiers wore uniforms that were more like those Frederick the Great’s troops would have worn. He had assumed that was a reflection of a conservative society, and that had sparked him to guess that personal morals were more valued. That evidently was not the case.

“I mentioned that the Tsar is quite fond of the army, and likes his court to reflect that,” von Beckendorf said. “I think you will find it a blend between what we saw in Mitau and an army camp.”

“Then the women are merely camp followers?” Granger asked, using that term instead of calling them whores.

“It is not as bad as that, but it can sometimes seem that way,” von Beckendorf said. “Russian ladies from good families usually marry quite early.”

“Why is that?” Granger asked, although there were a multitude of possible reasons.

“For some women, being married early gives them an easy explanation should they suddenly become with child,” von Beckendorf said with a wry grin.

“That would be convenient, especially if the husband was not overly concerned that the child may or may not be his,” Granger said.

Von Beckendorf shrugged. “Most do not. As long as the man is from a good family, it will be a good baby.” Granger was amazed at his casual attitude, then pondered that he’d adopted Elizabeth with no public scandal. The only difference is that he got upset about it, whereas von Beckendorf was insinuating that many men here did not.

“How young are most women when they are married?”

“Quite young. My sister, for example, who is a maid of honor to the Empress, was married last year when she was fourteen to Count von Lieven.”

“That is quite young indeed,” Granger agreed. “You are not married?” It was odd that had never come up before.

“No,” he said ruefully. “Soldiers marry later in life, after they have shown they can survive on a battlefield and are less likely to leave a widow behind.” Granger chuckled at that statement.

“That is often how it works in England, but I was married when I was just a lieutenant and 19 years old,” Granger said.

“I am surprised since you are a younger son,” he said.

“My wife decided that she wanted me as her husband,” Granger said with a smile, remembering how determined Caroline had been. “She seduced me, and that left her father little choice in the matter.”

“That must have increased the size of her dowry,” von Beckendorf noted with a grin.

“Indeed it did,” Granger said. “I am confident that you will like her. I hope you can get to England in the future to meet her.”

“I think it will be a few more years at least before I am married, but who is to say,” von Beckendorf said philosophically. “It would be nice to have my own establishment, but I have friends who detest their wives, so that is a concern.”

“I have friends like that too, and in fact Lord Daventry had a most contentious relationship with his wife up until recently,” Granger said. That was a fact that was well known in society, so he wasn’t revealing any of Daventry’s personal secrets.

“He may opt to stay in Russia,” von Beckendorf joked.

“I am sure he will enjoy himself, but I am confident that he will head back to England as soon as he can,” Granger said. “I received word when I was in Visby that his wife had died.”

“He will probably appreciate his freedom,” von Beckendorf said thoughtfully.

“He probably will, although he didn’t let being married restrict his activities all that much anyway,” Granger said, and they both laughed at that. They spent the rest of their trip reminiscing about their childhoods, something Granger rarely did. They arrived at Kiryanovo Usadba just as the sun was setting, a convenient event that had sometimes not been possible on their trip. There had been a number of evenings when it had gotten dark, and they’d had to slow their pace considerably while the dragoons held torches to light the road ahead.

Granger studied this palace that von der Pahlen had claimed as his headquarters. He found it to be out of proportion, with a large, square main building, rising over two levels in height, flanked by two curved single level buildings on either side, to make the entry court shaped like a horseshoe. To Granger, the architecture seemed a jumble. There were classic Ionic columns painted white, making them stand out a bit too starkly against the light yellowish-orange paint of the rest of the palace. Over twenty wide steps led up to the entry on the main level creating a massive porch, with the whole thing making the house look as if it had an open mouth. Finally, except for the Ionic columns, everything about the main house was square, with nary a curve to be found. That contrasted starkly to the two curved wings, which also had arched windows.

The vozok came to a smooth stop, and there was a footman waiting to open the door for them. Von Beckendorf strode confidently past him and up the steps, with Granger at his side, aping his pace. As soon as they reached the double entry doors, and not a moment too soon, the doors opened to let them in. As soon as they were past the threshold, the doors shut. Granger assumed that Winkler and their staff would go in the servants’ entrance. The warmth of the interior was welcoming, although like many palaces it was a bit drafty. Granger decided that the vozok was probably warmer.

A butler was there to greet them, and he began a conversation with von Beckendorf in Russian. Granger stood there waiting impatiently when he spotted a familiar figure in the room just beyond the entry. “Boles!” Granger said, probably a bit too loudly.

The man looked at him oddly, then smiled and rushed over to greet Granger. “My lord! We did not expect to see you here!”

The butler started speaking urgently to von Beckendorf, even as he looked at Boles, making it obvious he was unhappy about a servant appearing unrequested in the entry. An evil eye from Granger, and equally nasty words from von Beckendorf, quickly dispelled the man’s outrage. “Where is Lord Daventry?” Granger asked.

“He is upstairs, my lord,” Boles said sadly. “He is ailing.”

“He is alright?” Granger asked, almost in a panic. “Take me to him.”

“Right away, my lord,” Boles said. Granger deserted von Beckendorf and the butler and followed Boles, although Granger was walking so fast he was forcing Boles to adopt a very fast pace. “His lordship has had ill humors since before we got here.”

“Do they know what ails him?” Granger asked.

“McGillivray thinks it is a winter cold,” Boles said skeptically. “Lord Daventry has refused to let us summon doctors and has been most difficult with the butler you just met.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” Granger said, shaking his head with a smile. Daventry would not be a cooperative patient.

“Over the past few days, he’s gotten a bit better, so we didn’t insist, my lord,” Boles said.

“Insist?” Granger asked, and actually chuckled. Boles led him up to a door, from behind which Granger heard a very loud sneeze. Boles merely raised an eyebrow and opened the door.

“Where’s that damn vodka!” Daventry groused.

Granger saw him lying in a bed, propped up by pillows, looking like a dowager who was making ready to receive morning visitors. “After a more civil greeting, I will be happy to pour you a drink,” Granger said evenly.

Daventry stared at him and blinked in amazement. “You look so angelic George. If I am dead, I surely can’t be in heaven.”

Granger strode to the bed and took Daventry’s hands, holding them warmly in his. “I fear I am destined for hell as surely as you are.” Daventry withdrew his hand in haste, grabbed a handkerchief, and sneezed loudly. “You are liable to sneeze out your brains.”

“I daresay it wouldn’t take much force,” Daventry said glumly. “It’s this damn ailment. This is what I get for riding in a freezing sled all the way from Riga.”

“A sled?” Granger asked.

“It was like a carriage transferred on top of a sled, with windows so thin they might have been paper, and gaps in the door to let in almost as much of a breeze as if there were no door at all,” Daventry grumbled.

“Surely there was some better conveyance available?” Granger asked mischievously.

“According to the Count, this is how the Russian upper classes travel in the winter,” he said, sneezing. “When did you get here?”

“Just this moment,” Granger said calmly.

“You do not seem worse for the wear of such an arduous trip,” Daventry noted suspiciously.

“I was less of a miser than you, and acquired a vozok,” Granger said. “It is also a carriage on a sled, but it was sumptuously upholstered in velvet, marvelously sealed off from the outside, and had a stove in it to keep it warm, much as I had in my cabin aboard Valiant.”

“You are an evil man to throw your good luck in a dying man’s face,” Daventry grumbled.

“You are not dying,” Granger said. “Although I’m sure you’re milking this illness for all it’s worth.”

“I am not,” Daventry agreed, “but it has not been pleasant.”

“I am glad you are recovering,” Granger said. “Perhaps when we travel to our next destination, I will allow you to ride with me.”

“Which leads me to the question at the foremost of my mind, which is what are you doing here?” Daventry asked with a hint of playfulness.

“It seems that your plans were so poorly laid out that I had to follow along and repair them,” Granger teased.

“They were not my plans, although they are poorly laid out,” Daventry said in an annoyed tone. “I was sent here without the tools to implement my orders, and the Count is skeptical we will succeed without them. I fear that this entire venture has been nothing but a dangerous waste of time and effort.”

Granger suddenly noticed Boles standing there, watching their interaction. Boles got exceedingly nervous as if he’d been found guilty of eavesdropping. “Boles, would you see that I am allocated a room near to this one, and please have my bags sent up here immediately.”

“Of course, my lord,” he said, and began to all but flee from the room.

“And ask Winkler to see me as soon as possible,” Granger added, his words trailing after Boles as he exited the room and closed the door. He sat on Daventry’s bed next to him. “I have much news to share with you.”

“And I with you,” Daventry said. “You may have traveled all this way only to face a firing squad with me.”

“I have a plan to save us, and if it does not work, we will die together,” Granger said, and held his hand again.

“I will go to hell in good company,” Daventry said, making them both laugh.

“When I arrived in Visby, I was informed that Angus Cochrane had been sent looking for you but had become sick with gaol fever.”

“I know him well,” Daventry said.

“As did I,” Granger said, and got a puzzled look from Daventry. That was transformed into sadness by Granger’s use of the past tense in his response. “He was stationed in Rio de Janeiro when I was there. He was dispatched back to England under my orders.”

“Did he recover?” Daventry asked, even though he already knew the answer.

“He did not,” Granger said sadly. “The governor graciously spirited me ashore as quickly as possible. Cochrane and I were only able to exchange a few words before he died.”

“That is a shame,” Daventry replied.

“It was,” Granger agreed. “I tried to do the right thing for him. We had a rather grand funeral for him and buried him on Gotland.”

“I’m sure his family will be pleased by your efforts,” Daventry said soothingly. “And what was this message that Cochrane was carrying for me.”

“This is his coat,” Granger said, as he stood up and removed the garment.

“You are pilfering clothes from dead comrades?” Daventry asked. “You must be desperately worried about your wardrobe.”

“I think you will find this coat is much more valuable than anything you have, or probably will have,” Granger said, raising an eyebrow.

Daventry felt the fine wool fabric. “It is nice, but not that nice.”

“That is because you have not seen all of its features,” Granger said. Granger showed Daventry a section with a metal box in it, getting a raised eyebrow from his fellow peer, then gently removed the stitching to reveal the box. He handed it to Daventry.

“This would perhaps make your point if one could open it,” Daventry said. Granger took out his watch and attached to the fob was the key to the box.

“When I met Cochrane, he reached into his mouth and pulled out this key. That’s where he had hidden it,” Granger said reverently. Granger took the box from Daventry and opened it with the key, then set the box next to him.

He watched as Daventry read the note from Pitt, then glanced at the contents of the box. While he was rummaging through them, Granger pulled out the second box and opened that as well. “This changes everything,” he pronounced. “Once we sell these jewels and get the banker to advance us money on the strength of these notes, we will have enough money to implement our plan.”

“And what is our plan?” Granger asked. Daventry hesitated, which infuriated Granger. “I have traveled all of this way to make the mission a success. I have a right to know what that mission is.”

“Yes, your tough journey in your heated, velvet-lined sled,” Daventry said with a scowl. “We are going to overthrow the Tsar.”

“And how will you do that?” Granger asked.

“He will be cornered in his palace on an auspicious night, and forced to abdicate, just like his father was,” Daventry said.

“Will he be murdered?” Granger asked, horrified at that possibility.

“No, at least that is not the plan,” Daventry said. “He will be allowed to live in a remote palace under heavy guard.” Granger knew that was almost certain not to happen. No reigning Tsar could afford to have his predecessor, who had abdicated under duress, live on as a constant focus of the opposition. “Presumably his son will see to his father’s safety when he assumes the throne.”

It was a foregone conclusion that Tsarevich Alexander would become Tsar. Having an uncontested heir to the throne made the chances that this plan would succeed just that much more likely. “I wonder if the Prince of Wales would be so charitable to his father.”

“I would hope that the Tsarevich is less self-absorbed than Prinny,” Daventry said dubiously. In the end, all of this rationalization was just that, a way to make this plan less abhorrent to the plotters. With Russia as an avowed enemy, the survival of Great Britain was in question, and that made the decision to proceed with the plan imperative.

“I have a use for some of the jewels,” Granger said.

“I think that before you go and give away my jewels, you should explain what they are going to be used for,” Daventry said playfully.

“And I would question whether they are your jewels, since I am the one who brought them here,” Granger joked back. “Which leads us to the reason I am here.”

“Yes, now that you mention it, you haven’t explained your presence to me,” Daventry said, enjoying their banter.

“My purpose was twofold,” Granger said, getting more serious. “Even with Cochrane alive, it would have been difficult for him to get these to you. I was only able to achieve that with the assistance of Baron von Beckendorf.”

“The handsome colonel we met in Arensburg,” Daventry said.

“The very same,” Granger agreed.

“Having traveled that route with the Count, I can see how without a trustworthy and knowledgeable guide, Cochrane’s journey would have ended in disaster,” Daventry noted. For Cochrane, it had indeed ended in disaster, but Daventry was presumably alluding to the contents of these metal cases falling into unfriendly hands. “What was your second purpose?”

“It has been hypothesized that you will not be successful if the Tsar maintains his animosity toward us,” Granger said. Daventry gave him a skeptical look, which Granger addressed. “How would you meet with bankers and the others you will need to work with if you are at risk of being arrested at any juncture? Will you just hand over thousands of pounds to von der Pahlen with no oversight?”

“It would be difficult,” Daventry acknowledged.

“I am here to try and win the Tsar over so he doesn’t hate us,” Granger said.

“That will be one of your more impressive achievements, if you pull it off,” Daventry said.

“I have a plan for that, as I said,” Granger replied. “Before we talk about that, there is other news I must convey to you.”

“Go on,” Daventry said nervously.

“I received a letter from Caroline as part of the dispatches waiting for me in Visby,” Granger said. “Your wife is dead.”

Such news shook Daventry to the point that his emotions were clearly visible on his face. His expressions ranged from happiness, to sadness, back to happiness, and then to guilt. “That is unfortunate.”

“Caroline said that she didn’t grieve when she heard of your wife’s death, and she couldn’t imagine you would feel much grief either, but said that it left her with a feeling of emptiness. Those thoughts mirror my own,” Granger said.

“That is a very astute observation on Caroline’s part,” Daventry said. “If this would have happened a year ago, I would be dancing with joy, but now that we had made our peace with each other, it is a bit sad.” Granger paused for a minute to let Daventry contemplate the death of his wife.

“She died in childbirth,” Granger said. Daventry’s sadness vanished and his eyes lit up in excitement. “She had just given birth to your son.”

“And he is healthy?” Daventry asked nervously.

“He is. Robert Charles George Daventry is a very animated boy, and Caroline said that he will probably end up being like you, such is his charm,” Granger said with a smile.

“So there is a new Lord Astley,” Daventry mused happily. The barony of Astley was Daventry’s subsidiary title just as Ryde was Granger’s. And just as William was known as Lord Ryde, so Daventry’s son would be formally known as Lord Astley.

“Indeed there is,” Granger said. “Your wife was quite clear in her will about how he was to be raised. She picked his names, and stated that in your absence, Caroline and I were to raise him.”

“And Caroline honored her wishes,” Daventry mused.

“Your late wife had asked her to stand as Astley’s godmother, and was told that I had already agreed to be the godfather, even though you had not asked me yet,” Granger said, pretending to be snitty.

“I knew you would not refuse my request,” Daventry said starkly.

“You were right,” Granger said.

“For all of our fights and conflicts, in the end my wife did her duty,” Daventry said thoughtfully. “That has earned her my obligation to honor her memory, both to posterity and to our son.”

“I think that her actions, as transmitted through her will, were designed to elicit just that response from you,” Granger said. Daventry looked at him curiously, as if to ask him to explain. “Her parents had stepped in and were going to raise your son, but her will explicitly excluded them and placed him in our household.”

“I wonder if being a mother would have made her a better person,” he said, thinking out loud.

“I don’t know,” Granger said, then grinned. “Will being a father make you a better person?”

“Probably not,” Daventry replied, making both of them laugh.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.
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I'm so delighted to have Daventry back, even a snotty, whiny Daventry who is likely to infect the whole party with his respiratory virus. I cringed every time Granger held his hand. Where is the hand sanitizer? :o   I enjoyed his reactions to Granger's news, though. And they are utterly adorable together. :wub:

Thanks, hon! Can't wait for more! 

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Loved all of the stories that have brought us to this juncture! I read most of them mid UK lockdown! My only comment would be that the earlier stories/ chapters seemed to be longer allowing you to be fully immersed in the flow of your writing and not feeling the need to go back to dbl check the previous ones for bullet points on the story or character relationships. atm it seems that we are just getting going & the chapter ends!?!?

But boy do I love your stories regardless!?!? LOL!!

Keep up the great work that you do!!

Rgds

Ian

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spyke

Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, pickuptoy said:

Manor Kiryanovo  that you can see on google maps

That is just too funny. The Google maps car driving through while they're trying to take wedding photos! 🤣 The photographer did not look amused.  Thanks so much @pickuptoy! I needed that giggle today.  

 

https://www.google.com/maps/@59.8856655,30.2654549,3a,75y,37.98h,79.21t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sDDr2SCYwOJCX1RjsxkxfaA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Edited by spyke
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Once again our man George to the rescue!  I wonder what Daventry had in mind for a plan to overthrow the Tsar before George arrived. He  would have most certainly faced death. George now has his work cut out for him to try and win over the Tsar. He is also going to have to deal with that horrible green eyed monster that has reared it's ugly head in von Beckendorf. Somehow I'm envisioning our George arranging a 3 way to tame that beast. LOL.  Thanks for another great chaper @Mark Arbour. Your talent is simply amazing!

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