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    Mark Arbour
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Northern Exposure - 46. Chapter 46

March 18, 1801

Stroganov Palace

St. Petersburg, Russia


Granger and Daventry sat around the dinner table as usual, only the mood was not as pleasant as it normally was. The Stroganovs were as polite as ever, but there was an underlying tension in the air. Granger began to wonder if their hosts would evict them from this palace, or if they were just concerned.

“I am fearful there is to be some action taken against you,” Alexei said quietly after the servants had left them alone.

“What makes you think that?” Daventry asked.

“I heard that the Tsar is still furious with George, and when you both did not appear at services on Sunday, it convinced him you were up to evil,” Alexei said.

“I have heard similar rumors,” Sophia said, and looked at the two Englishmen with concern.

“I had hoped that by staying out of His Imperial Majesty’s presence he would be less bothered by me,” Granger said. “It seems that strategy is not working.”

“Unfortunately, sometimes these things can sit and fester with him,” Pavel said.

“What do you recommend?” Granger asked.

“I think you have two choices,” Pavel said. “I think you can appear before the Tsar, let him rant and rave at you, and hopefully that will calm him down. After that, you should attend him daily, so he can see for his own eyes what you are up to.”

“And what is the second choice?” Daventry asked.

“I think you should pack up your things and leave Russia at once,” Pavel said. “I would flee north, into Finland, where you can appeal to the Swedes to turn a blind eye to your presence.” Granger was not disturbed by the first option, even though it would tax his patience to the extreme, but he was very disturbed by the second course of action. First of all, it would appear to negate his entire proclaimed reason for coming to St. Petersburg in the first place. In addition, it would leave Daventry in considerable danger, and would probably ruin his plans. And finally, it smacked of cowardice to run away, slinking away like a thief in the night.

“And which of those two options would you recommend?” Granger asked.

“The Tsar seems increasingly unstable,” Sophia said. “I am not sure you could trust him to treat you fairly.”

“It is a huge risk,” Pavel agreed. “But fleeing has its own challenges, and if you are caught, you will be put in prison. That is not something you would want to experience.”

“I should think not,” Granger said. He glanced at the windows that looked out onto the Russian capital and noted that snow was falling again, as if to solidify his decision. It was certainly not the best weather to be traveling about. No, in this situation he must stay put and hope he could keep the erratic Tsar from sending him to prison or worse. Just as he was about to explain his decision, he heard noise from a considerable commotion coming from the entry hall. There was some shouting, and Pavel stood up to go and see what was happening when a captain along with ten Imperial Guards paraded boldly into the dining room.

Everyone sat there and said nothing, which was astounding to both Granger and Daventry. It was inconceivable that British troops would so boldly and brazenly enter the London townhome of the Duke of Marlborough or the Duke of Portland, and if they did, they would certainly arouse the ire of those two peers. Yet here a similar thing was happening and the Stroganovs sat passively, as if this were normal and reasonable. “You are George, Viscount Granger?” the captain asked Granger.

Granger stood up. “I am.”

“You are hereby required to surrender yourself into my custody, where you will be taken to answer for your crimes against the Tsar of all the Russias,” he proclaimed.

“I have committed no crimes against His Imperial Majesty,” Granger said calmly, “but I will surrender myself into your custody.”

“Come with me,” he directed rudely.

“May I have a few minutes to prepare?” Granger asked. “I would like to at least retrieve my coat.” The captain looked as if he were about to refuse, then glanced around at the room and seemed to realize where he was, and that he had no need to make enemies of the Stroganovs.

He snapped orders to two of the guards. “These two men will accompany you to your room while you retrieve your coat.”

“I am most appreciative, Captain. You need not fear that I will try to evade you. I will gladly repay your courtesy by pledging my word that I will not try to escape,” Granger said courteously.

“Your Lordship may have half an hour to prepare,” the captain said, relenting.

“Then perhaps you would like to take my place at this table and finish the rest of my meal?” Granger asked. He nodded to the captain and strode quickly out of the dining room and up the stairs to his room.

“My lord?” Winkler asked.

“I am being arrested by the Tsar,” Granger said. “You must stay here under the protection of the Stroganovs.”

“Yes, my lord,” Winkler said.

“I’ll want to wear my uniform,” Granger said. “And I only have thirty minutes before I must leave.”

“Of course, my lord,” Winkler said, and began hurrying to help Granger change clothes. While Winkler was getting his garments ready, Granger made sure he had ample coins in his purse, both guineas and roubles, and took his satchel bag along with all his letters, and made sure he had quills, ink, and stationary so he would have something to do in his jail cell. Winkler then helped him dress and took time to make sure he had a scarf and his winter coat firmly in place.

“I am not sure how this will turn out,” Granger said to Winkler. He paused and held out his hands, taking hold of Winkler’s. “You should take your directions first from Lord Daventry and then from Pavel Stroganov. I am confident they will see you safely out of Russia when the time is right.”

“My lord, I won’t leave without you,” Winkler vowed.

“We have been through many challenges together, but if the Tsar decides to turn his wrath on me, I fear there is little your presence will accomplish. I would rather you go back to England where you can convey my letters to Lady Granger and explain to her what happened.”

“If you say so, my lord,” Winkler grumbled.

“My instincts tell me we will meet again soon,” Granger said, then embraced Winkler in a meaningful hug.

“I hope so, my lord,” Winkler said, stifling sobs. “I hope so.”

Granger pulled away from him, patted him on the cheek, and strode calmly out of the room, pausing to wipe a tear from his own eye. The bond between him and Winkler was probably as deep if not deeper than his bond with anyone, and the thought of being without him was truly wrenching. He pulled himself together and strode deliberately down the stairs. He entered the dining room to find that the conversation had become friendly as the captain had dined and drank with Daventry and the Stroganovs. “I am ready to go, Captain, if that meets with your pleasure.”

“I appreciate your promptness, my lord,” he said. Granger merely nodded to the others, as a long and drawn-out goodbye would do nothing to help his cause at this point. He strolled down the stairs with the captain, followed closely by the guards. “I am sorry to drag you away so abruptly.”

“Captain, I am in the military. You were following orders, and if you did anything less, I would be disappointed,” Granger said. “May I ask where I am being taken?”

“We are going to St. Michael’s,” he said, referring to the Tsar’s palace. That was the first positive news Granger had received. If he were being sent to a prison, that would have indicated a much more dire situation.

“That is hardly a prison, so I am much relieved,” Granger said with a smile. The captain looked nervous, because he probably reasoned that it was quite likely that Granger would end up in just such a place after he faced the Tsar. He continued to smile, albeit ruefully, when he realized that the choice that had been presented to him at dinner had been made for him. He was glad, although surprised, that Daventry had not been arrested as well.

They arrived at St. Michael’s and he was led up the familiar staircase into one of the galleries that had been converted into what was probably supposed to resemble a courtroom. There was a single chair in the middle of the room, then there was a long balustrade which was most likely the bar. Behind the bar and to the left was an area presumably for witnesses, while to the right was a table with papers on it, which was presumably the desk for his accuser. And sitting behind both of those things was the Tsar, on his throne. Granger bowed low, as was proper, which seemed to annoy the monarch even more.

Granger was stunned at the man facing the bar and facing Granger who would probably accuse him of the crimes he had committed: Count Nikita Petrovich Panin. Panin was Russia’s Foreign Minister and was good friends with Whitworth, and on good terms with Lord Grenville. He was a handsome and refined man of about thirty, one whom Granger had spent much time with socially. They often conversed during intermissions at operas, ballets, and concerts, and Granger found him to be a dangerous foe when playing whist. He had even suspected that Panin was working with Daventry on his plans. It was surprising that he would end up as Granger’s prosecutor.

“George Granger, Viscount Granger, Baron of Ryde, Knight of the Bath, and Captain in His Britannic Majesty’s navy,” Panin said, omitting Granger’s other foreign honors. “You are summoned before this tribunal to answer for your crimes against Russia.”

“Your Excellency, I have committed no crimes against Russia, but I am happy to answer any questions this tribunal would put to me,” Granger said smoothly.

“Admiral Chernyavin, commander of the squadron you savaged at Kronstadt, has some issues to raise with you, my lord,” Panin said, with a sense of righteous outrage that appeared to be fake. It was probably a show put on for the Tsar.

“As Your Excellency wishes,” Granger replied. He recognized this was the preamble to whatever the letter they’d intercepted said and was probably designed to put him off balance.

The Admiral stood at the podium, with two captains standing behind him, all of them wearing the dark greenish-gray uniform of the Russian navy. The admiral was probably in his sixties or possibly seventies, while the captains were probably in their forties or fifties. He began to ramble on about the attack on his ships, focusing his ire on the floating kegs. Even the Tsar looked annoyed at his longwinded diatribe. He finished his speech by directing his closing questions to Granger. “How can you call yourself an honorable man when you used infernal machines to destroy or disable three of His Imperial Majesty’s ships of the line?” Chernyavin demanded. “You have violated the rules of war!”

“Admiral, I will overlook your slur this once, but if you ever question my honor again, I will seek satisfaction,” Granger said severely, turning his blue eyes into rifles as he glared at the man. It was a pleasure to see that have an impact on him. He then turned to Panin. “Your Excellency, I have done nothing to warrant being treated with such disrespect. If the admiral cannot address me properly, as is my right, I would request that he address you, and you transmit his questions.” Granger was determined to show no sign of weakness and steeled himself not to waver no matter what happened.

“That will not be necessary, my lord,” Panin said. “I am quite sure Admiral Chernyavin will remember his manners from this point forward.”

“Then, with Your Excellency’s bonafides, I will address his question,” Granger said. “Admiral, when Valiant was attacked by your ships, His Britannic Majesty’s flag was clearly flying, was it not?”

“My lord,” Chernyavin said grudgingly, “your attack on His Imperial Majesty’s ships during a time when our two nations are not at war resulted in the destruction of one ship of the line, the damage to two other ships of the line such that they must be stricken from service, and the death of at least 1000 of His Imperial Majesty’s subjects.”

“Admiral, I did not attack His Imperial Majesty’s ships, they attacked me. I was defending myself,” Granger said firmly. “Now please answer my question. When Valiant was attacked by your ships, His Britannic Majesty’s flag was clearly flying, was it not?”

“That is my understanding, my lord,” Chernyavin answered with a sneer.

“I’m sorry Admiral, were you not on board the ships when they attacked?” Granger asked.

“I was coordinating operations from Kronstadt, my lord,” he said, even as his face grew red from both rage and embarrassment.

“That is certainly a much safer place to be than aboard a ship planning to fight a battle, Admiral,” Granger noted, all but calling the man a coward. “A question for you: did you have edinorogs aboard those ships?”

“We did, my lord,” he said, through gritted teeth.

“Sir, edinorogs are designed to fire shells, not round shot,” Granger stated. “For a ship to fire shells at another vessel during a battle would also be a violation of the rules of war.”

“That is preposterous, my lord,” Chernyavin said with a harrumph. “There is no such rule governing the use of shells at sea.”

“Just as there is no rule governing the use of ‘infernal machines’ in the harbor, sir,” Granger said. “You may rewrite the rules of war to attempt to explain your defeat, but you are the only one who will find them valid.”

“Those devices were clearly intended to float into St. Petersburg and destroy the Winter Palace, my lord,” he accused.

Granger laughed. “Admiral, the devices you are so upset about were merely small kegs filled with gunpowder. A slow match was put inside them and they were sealed up, then released to float toward your ships. The currents and wind would not have pushed them into the city, and even if they did, they did not contain enough gunpowder to harm a building as massive as the Winter Palace,” Granger said. “My intention was to cause you enough alarm such that you would panic and end up aground.”

“That is a fine story to relay after the fact, my lord,” he persisted.

“I would further suggest, sir, that for those infernal devices to reach the mouth of the Neva, they would have taken until daylight, and I find it hard to believe that Russian naval forces are incapable of intercepting and destroying kegs floating on a river,” Granger said. “Further, I would note that the slow matches in those kegs would have been extinguished by that time.”

“And how do we know that is true, my lord?” he demanded.

“Because I have told you it is so, and to question that is to return to our previous discussion where you almost questioned my honor,” Granger said with a warning note in his tone. “How much damage was caused to those ships by the explosives, Admiral?”

“All three of the vessels are no longer serviceable, my lord,” he answered.

“Yes sir, but how much of that damage was caused by those explosives?” Granger asked again.

“I am not sure, my lord,” he admitted.

“From my perspective, sir, the most damage was caused by fire ships we launched, and I would point out that the use of those vessels is well within the acceptable wartime practices,” Granger said.

“So you say, my lord,” the admiral said, annoyed at having his grand argument shot to pieces.

“I had occasion to discuss that battle with His Imperial Highness the Tsarevich, and I will use here an analogy that I used with him. It is as if there were three squadrons of Cuirassiers engaging a single squadron of Hussars. The Hussars are clearly outclassed by the huge Cuirassiers and their massive horses, so if they are to survive, they must rely on their ability to maneuver and trick their larger foes,” Granger said. His military analogy would be wasted on this naval officer, but it was directed at the man on the throne and his advisors, who would understand it quite well.

“I do not see your point, my lord,” the admiral said.

“Admiral, Cuirassiers are trained to charge straight into battle. They are meant to get into the action and slug it out with their foes. The captains of your ships of the line are trained to do the same thing. They are conditioned to go into a battle, most likely against a Swedish battleship, and slug it out. There is no need for fancy maneuvers, and there is no need for hesitation. They must simply charge in and rely on their sailors and gunners to carry the day,” Granger said. “Or is that not correct?”

The admiral said nothing. The silence was broken by one of his captains. “That is the role of a captain of a battleship, my lord,” he said.

“The captains of those ships did their duty, did what they were supposed to do, sir,” Granger said. “There are many reasons why frigates and ships of the line do not usually engage each other, and this battle demonstrated one of them. If you had sent three large frigates out, supported by a single ship of the line to ensure victory, the battle would probably have turned out much differently.”

“I do not believe that for a minute, my lord,” the admiral said with a scoff. “If not for your explosives, you would have been annihilated.”

“So you would accuse me of some malfeasance because I was able to survive a battle where I was heavily outnumbered, sir?” Granger demanded. “The fault of the defeat lies not with me, admiral, nor with your captains, but with you. You sent out a force to attack Valiant and when there was confusion and chaos, rather than being afloat to help keep order, you were safely watching from a parapet at Kronstadt.”

“Preposterous!” the admiral shouted. Panin glanced back at the Tsar, trying to do so in a way that no one would see, but it was not done smoothly enough to hide their intent. The Tsar nodded slightly.

“I think you have addressed the issues raised by Admiral Chernyavin, my lord,” he said, and waved his hand to dismiss the naval officers.

One of the captains hesitated. “My lord, may I pose one more question?” Panin glared at him, then his expression softened as his curiosity got the best of him.

“Of course, Captain,” Granger said pleasantly.

“Can you tell us what happened to Boleslav?” he asked. He was handsome in a rugged way, the kind of man who had spent his life at sea and his body showed the wear and tear such a career could cause. Granger reevaluated his age and guessed him to be probably just shy of forty years old.

“Captain, your question shows two qualities that I would commend,” Granger said. It was bizarre that it did not seem strange for him to be pontificating to a captain who was undoubtedly his senior by many years. “It shows concern for your lost compatriots, and it demonstrates a desire to improve His Imperial Majesty’s navy.”

“Thank you, my lord,” the man said, mildly stunned by such praise.

“To answer your question, I do not know,” Granger said. “We had come across Boleslav at first light, and by the time we had spotted her she was almost close enough to run aboard. We were able to rake her bow, then we exchanged several broadsides. She found herself maneuvered into a position where she would have to turn to avoid being all aback, and that would expose her stern. We fired one broadside into her aft quarter, and that brought down her mizzen mast. As we passed aft of her, we delivered another broadside, after which Boleslav exploded. I am not sure what caused such a catastrophic event. I had pondered that it could have been a flaming wad from one of our guns, but that seems unlikely. I think we were too far away for that to be a factor, and in any event, unless there was a significant supply of powder on her decks, it would not have caused an explosion. A wad would have started a fire, perhaps, but not an explosion.”

“I thank you, my lord, and I apologize for disrupting these hearings,” the captain said politely. “It has plagued me, yet I am no closer to an answer.”

“I would be most willing, captain, if it meets with His Imperial Majesty’s approval, to discuss those events more fully at some later time,” Granger said. The captain nodded, smiling slightly, then the Russian naval officers left the room.

“The letter!” the Tsar said to Panin. “The letter!” It was hard to gauge his mood, but he did not seem quite as furious as he was before, which was a surprise considering Granger had humiliated one of his admirals in front of him.

“Of course, Your Imperial Majesty,” Panin said respectfully. “We have intercepted a letter to Your Lordship from Lord Whitworth. Please allow me to read it.”

“I have received no communications from Lord Whitworth since I arrived in Russia, Your Excellency, so I will be most interested to hear its contents,” Granger said, even as his mind began to reel.

Panin held up a piece of paper and began to recite from it: “Dear Lord Granger, The purpose of this letter it to verify and expand on my prior directives to you. If you received it, that means you are in St. Petersburg. While you are there, you are to do everything in your power to ingratiate yourself with His Imperial Majesty Tsar Paul and other members of the Imperial family and the government, especially His Imperial Highness Tsarevich Alexander. If His Imperial Majesty will not see reason, and will not agree to a favorable and peaceful settlement of our issues with the Northern Powers, you are to do everything you can to destabilize the government, including abetting any plots to overthrow the Tsar. Signed, Whitworth.”

“Ha!” The Tsar said, as if this was proof of Granger’s perfidy.

“Your Excellency, I am not subject to directives from Lord Whitworth,” Granger said, continuing the farce of addressing Panin. “I was directed to convey him to Copenhagen, during which time I was to consult and support him. After I accomplished that part of my mission, his ability to direct my actions ceased.”

“This letter says otherwise, my lord,” Panin said.

“Your Excellency, Lord Whitworth has many attributes, and one of them is certainly envisioning himself as being much more important and in a much bigger position of authority than he actually is,” Granger said. Panin, who knew Whitworth well, was unable to hide his smile when Granger made that comment. “I would also submit that His Britannic Majesty’s government is well aware of the antipathy His Imperial Majesty has for Lord Whitworth, and as a result they would not involve him in Russian affairs.”

“My lord, those are fine words, but we have here prima facie evidence that you are working to overthrow the Tsar,” Panin said.

“Nothing could be further from the truth, Your Excellency,” Granger said. “I have received limited communication from Britain since I arrived in St. Petersburg, but I was lucky enough to receive some letters last week.”

“How did you receive letters, my lord?” Panin asked.

“I am not sure how they were transited to me, Your Excellency. A packet was delivered to a servant from someone who was apparently a street urchin,” Granger said.

“And you are sure these letters are authentic, my lord?” Panin asked.

“I am, Your Excellency,” Granger said. “First of all, there was a letter from my wife, and I am quite familiar with her penmanship and stationery, as well as her other writing attributes.” Granger said this with a smile, one Panin briefly returned.

“Not all men would be able to say that about their wives, my lord,” he joked. They shared a brief chuckle.

“There was also a letter from Lord Grenville, who as a member of the cabinet can most certainly give me guidance and directions, Your Excellency,” Granger said.

“And what did this letter say, my lord?” Panin asked.

“One moment, Your Excellency,” Granger said. He opened his satchel bag and pulled out Grenville’s letter, and as he did, he spotted another letter that may even be more useful. He opted to take this one step at a time. “Does Your Excellency read English?”

“No, my lord, but my aide does,” Panin said, and gestured to a younger man. Granger handed Grenville’s letter to Panin, who handed it to his aide.

The aide translated the letter into French remarkably well, even if his nasally voice grated on Granger’s ears: “Dear Granger, I applaud your efforts to travel to St. Petersburg and help your confrere, Lord Daventry. That you took the correct course of action in that regard was no surprise to me, or to the others who know you. Anything you can do to help repair our relationship with Russia would be appreciated. Working in harmony and in concert with His Imperial Majesty is undoubtedly one of our top priorities, as our two nations are natural allies. Grenville.

“Those are fine words, my lord, but perhaps they merely reflect the duality of British diplomacy,” Panin said. Granger bristled at the slur, even though it was deserved. “On the one hand, Lord Grenville professes undying devotion and dedication to harmonious relations with Russia, while on the other, Lord Whitworth provides more nefarious directives.”

Granger opted not to reargue the point that Whitworth had authority over him. In reality, if Whitworth had sent him a letter of instruction, he would be incredibly annoyed and probably disregard it, especially after seeing how that seasoned diplomat had bungled things in Denmark. Instead, he gambled everything on a different strategy. “Your Excellency, may I see the letter from Lord Whitworth?”

Panin hesitated, as if concerned that Granger would rip the letter to shreds, then probably realized such a thing was inconceivable. “Of course, my lord,” he said.

He held out the document, but rather than immediately step forward to take it, Granger rummaged quickly through his satchel bag, much to the annoyance of Panin and the others. He found one of the letters Whitworth had written him while they were in Denmark and smiled internally, then stepped forward and took the letter Panin was holding. “Your Excellency, may we lay these two letters out on your table, side by side?” Granger asked.

Panin blanched at that, since that meant allowing Granger past the bar, which was evidently sacrosanct. Instead he muttered orders to two guards, who slid the table so it abutted the bar, and so Granger could reach over it. “Will this do, my lord?” he asked in annoyance. While this was happening, Granger focused on comparing the letters, feeling more and more elated as he did.

“It will, Your Excellency, and I must thank you for your indulgence,” Granger said. “This is a letter I received from Lord Whitworth when we were in Denmark. This is the letter you received.” Granger gestured at the two letters, and Panin studied them.

“Your point, my lord?” Panin said.

“The letter from Lord Whitworth you received is a forgery, Your Excellency,” Granger pronounced. There were audible sounds of men breathing in air in shock at this accusation.

“Justify that accusation, my lord,” Panin demanded.

“Of course, Your Excellency,” Granger said. “Close inspection will reveal inconsistencies between the forgery and the real letter, errors in the way Whitworth writes his letters, and even his signature is not quite right.”

“They do not seem that different to me, my lord,” Panin said.

“The real indicator is the stationery, Your Excellency,” Granger said. “The letter I received from Lord Whitworth is on stationery that is coroneted and is of a different quality than that of the forgery. I would guess that the stationery of the forgery is what Whitworth would have used while he was the ambassador here.”

Panin picked up each letter and felt the stationery, felt the difference. Granger had not bothered to point out that the stationery Whitworth had made in Britain was of far better quality. “Why is the coronet such an issue, my lord?” he asked.

“Because, Your Excellency, Lord Whitworth did not receive his promotion to the peerage until his return to Britain,” Granger explained. “While his promotion to the rank of baron was made at the behest of His Imperial Majesty, it was not awarded until March of last year.”

Panin studied the letters more carefully now. He was facing Granger, and allowed himself to give Granger a sly wink. “One moment, my lord,” he said, and then walked over to the Tsar and handed him the two pieces of paper. The Tsar took them and looked incredibly annoyed even as he glared at those around him. He studied them for a while, and Granger suspected that he was thinking of what to do rather than reading the text. Granger stood at what was close to attention, staring straight ahead, stoically awaiting his fate. The Tsar said something to Panin. “My lord, His Imperial Majesty has given you leave to approach him.”

Granger passed through the bar and bowed to the Tsar, then approached him. He stood there, saying nothing, as one did not address a monarch, one was addressed by a monarch. “We do not like England, and we do not trust you,” the Tsar finally said.

“I am sorry if I have given Your Imperial Majesty reason to think I am not sincere,” Granger said simply.

“You did not attend church with us on Sunday,” he accused.

“I apologize for that, Your Imperial Majesty. I had heard that Your Imperial Majesty was angry with me, and I felt that I would absent myself to avoid bothering you with my presence on the Sabbath,” Granger said.

The Tsar stared at Granger and his eyes seemed to reveal the chaos behind them. “We have heard that it is good to keep your enemies close, and while we are not sure you are our enemy, we require you to relocate to this palace where we can keep an eye on you and your activities.”

“Your Imperial Majesty, it would be an honor to reside in the same place as you,” Granger said. “May I ask two questions?”

“What?” he asked with a growl.

“I would like to ask my servants to join me, if that pleases Your Imperial Majesty” Granger said.

“That is acceptable,” he agreed. “What else?”

“Is it permitted for me to associate with people of Your Imperial Majesty’s Court, and to meet with officers such as the captain whom I spoke to at this hearing?” Granger asked.

“You may,” he said.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.
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Great idea that Panin was the author of the forged letter. He would have had access to Whitworth's stationary and past letters so he could be in a good position to have a new letter forged. He just would not know of Whitworth's new stationary or that Granger would have a copy of a real signed  letter from Whitworth so this new letter could be shown to be a forgery.  Panin must be highly skilled in survival at court and as Machiavellian as Talleyrand, another foreign minister who Granger knows. Having the focus on a putative threat from Granger would likely free the real plotters from observation.

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Great chapter. Thee balance between addressing the charges, amusing those who understood him, as well as placating the Tsar was quite masterful. 

Our Grainger has a most excellent puppet master; I am in awe of his amazing abilities to depict our hero on land, at sea, in the courtroom and in bed!

Thank you.


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47 minutes ago, Peter said:

Another brilliantly written chapter full of emotion and cunning . I suspect that the author of the forged letter was Panin, not to get Granger imprisoned but to divert the Tsar's attention from the real plots against him. Of course Panin would be indifferent as to whether or not Granger ended up in prison, what he wanted was a diversion from what was really happening. If the Tsar was looking at Granger and England as the enemy, he would not be looking elsewhere.

Mark, please give up the day job and concentrate on writing these gripping stories! 

I am not sure if Panin was part of the assassination or not. However I am sure more and more people see the Tsar as unstable and we must also remember that his own mother had his father assassinated. So the thought of it happening to him is not a foreign idea. As we see the time shorten and March 23 appear the tension increases and all of us await the next chapter with longing.

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1 hour ago, Peter said:

Another brilliantly written chapter full of emotion and cunning . I suspect that the author of the forged letter was Panin, not to get Granger imprisoned but to divert the Tsar's attention from the real plots against him. Of course Panin would be indifferent as to whether or not Granger ended up in prison, what he wanted was a diversion from what was really happening. If the Tsar was looking at Granger and England as the enemy, he would not be looking elsewhere.

Mark, please give up the day job and concentrate on writing these gripping stories! 

Sadly, I cannot afford to quit my day job and write. 🙁

I honestly haven’t thought through who came up with the forgery, but your hypothesis and analysis are intriguing.  Well done!

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George just takes the bull by the horns, and struts right in for his inquisition. He really turns the charges against him by Admiral Chernyavin, back on the Admiral's not being there as the main reason for the great loss to the Imperial Majesty's navy.  I wonder if the Tsar will punish the Admiral in the next couple of days! Winkler is still my second favorite character in this wonderful story. Excellent chapter Mark. Thank you for what you do for your fans. 

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Counting down the hours till Paul is history. A great boost to George's adventure. St Michael's Palace is a dangerous place at this point in time. Great writing, Mark Arbour, as always. Thanks.

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This story keeps getting better and better.  How do you keep it up?  And Gap Year, too!  Well done, and I hope you get an Easter Break. Love from orange-blossom filled Valencia, and hay fever-filled, gary!!:worship:

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And Granger didn't even have to lie in order to defend himself. :2thumbs: Now the Tsar will want to find and punish those who forged the letter, as well as the incompetent admiral.

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