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    Mark Arbour
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Northern Exposure - 5. Chapter 5

 

August 1800

Ryde

 

Granger stepped out of his boat and onto the dock, but significant activity drew his attention back to Renown. He saw her working to raise her anchor, and set the main topsail, while her boats were all recalled. Evidently Sawyer wanted to move her away from Granger’s home, and closer to the victualing yard. Granger shook his head sadly at the man who commanded her, but thought that the man or men who put him in command were just as pathetic. He resolved to put Renown behind him, and focus on the new task ahead, whatever that may be.

He began to stroll up to the house when he saw William and Charlotte running down to greet him, with Caroline striding behind with more dignity. “Father, you’re home!” William cried, and all but lunged into Granger’s arms. He hugged his son, then his daughter, and reveled in the joy of seeing them. He thought about those parents who advocated keeping a cool distance between them and their children. Those people would never know the joy of embracing your own child, of loving your offspring and of having them return that love.

“It is good to see both of you,” Granger said happily, then looked up to see Caroline smiling at him. “And it is especially good to see you.” It was the perfect thing to say. After all the things they’d dealt with during the last few years, all their problems, he let her know that she was still vitally important to him, and that he loved her.

“When people ask me to describe the feeling of joy, I tell them that emotion is most vivid when you return from the sea,” she said to him lovingly. He hugged her tightly, and probably for too long, considering there were probably lots of eyes on them, but he cared not a fig. When he finally broke off the embrace, the four of them began walking back to the house. “If you look out at that fountain, you will see it is spouting through a newly arrived Roman god,” Caroline said.

“He is quite handsome, even without water spouting from him,” Granger observed, getting a chuckle from Caroline.

“He comes to you courtesy of Lord Elgin,” she informed him. “I think you will like him better than the other gift he has sent you.”

“You make me fear he has sent his wife home,” Granger said with dread, which was partially faked. “And what is this other gift?”

“I’ll leave that as surprise for you when you get to London,” she said mysteriously. His children demanded his attention before he could fully quiz her about that.

“Father, you were on that ship, a ship of the line!” William said, pointing at Renown.

“I commanded her briefly, for about a month or so,” Granger said. “I no longer have that obligation.”

“Will you take us aboard her?” he asked hopefully.

“Not that ship,” Granger said. “Perhaps a different one. We shall see.” There was no way he would subject his children to the insanity of Sawyer, and the dreariness of the other officers aboard Renown.

They went into the house and Granger headed for the nursery to see Alexander and Elizabeth, and spent about an hour with them, just enjoying their company. After that, he left all four of his children there so he and Caroline could talk. That did not get a very pleasant response from his offspring, but Granger decided that governesses were there to deal with those foul moods, and opted to enjoy some time with his wife. As he and Caroline walked down the stairs, he noticed Jenkins waiting for him.

“Welcome home my lord,” Jenkins said, and seemed genuinely glad he was there. “We are pleased to serve dinner if you are ready.”

“We would be delighted,” Granger said, smiling at Jenkins, even as he led them into the dining room. “It is good to see you.”

“Thank you, my lord, it is good to see you as well,” Jenkins said a bit nervously. He wasn’t as refined as Cheevers, and let his emotions out a bit more, but Granger thought that was actually rather pleasant for this home, which was in the more casual world of the Isle of Wight.

“Admiral Berkeley sailed back with me aboard Renown, and I invited him to stay with us until tomorrow when he must head to London,” Granger told Jenkins and Caroline. Jenkins just nodded, then left him, while he and Caroline sat at the dining room table to eat and talk.

“It will be nice to see him again,” Caroline said. “And you are going to London with him?”

“That was the course of action I outlined to the admiral, unless you have other plans for me?” Granger asked.

“My plans for you are for after dinner,” she said, and winked at him, making Granger chuckle.

“Indeed it does sound as if it will be good to be home,” he said, and leaned in to give her a quick kiss. “I have to say that this house is quite convenient if one is serving in the Channel Fleet.”

“So it would seem,” she agreed.

“Have you heard from Cavendish lately?” He hoped Caroline would sense his overall concern for the young man, and know that he wasn’t trying to bring up their past issues.

She seemed to understand his intentions, and nodded her head sadly because she understood Cavendish’s predicament. “He came to see me after he sent you that letter, as he was in London only briefly. He truly seemed despondent and trapped. He is usually so upbeat and seems to enjoy the jungle that is London politics, but he is feeling the effects of being unpopular.”

“I did not know what to say, or how to reach out to him,” Granger said, showing her how helpless he felt. “I wrote him, but I didn’t have a trusted courier, so those letters were probably much too vague.”

“I advised him to talk to your father about this situation,” Caroline said.

“And did he?”

Caroline responded playfully, trying to lighten the mood a bit, as this talk of Cavendish’s pending marriage had made things a bit too somber. “You do not think he was smart enough to heed my advice?”

Granger raised an eyebrow at that, and then smiled. “So what did my father say to him?” making them both chuckle.

“He told Freddy to talk to His Majesty,” she said. “He also suggested that, if His Majesty didn’t seem receptive, that the Prince of Wales would be another candidate.” Granger let her words concern him, since the only reason the King would not be receptive or helpful would be because his illness had returned.

“His Majesty is not well?” Granger asked, remembering his upsetting meeting with his monarch just a few months ago.

“He is well, but has spells from time to time,” Caroline said. “At least that is what I have heard. I suspect the spells may happen a bit more frequently than that.”

“That is unfortunate,” Granger said sadly.

“The Act of Union received its assent on July 2, and Pitt had promised that Catholic Emancipation would come with it. The King has sworn to oppose such a measure. I think that is weighing on the mind of His Majesty quite a bit,” she said.

“That was clearly what had him agitated when I met with him,” Granger agreed. “Did Freddy talk to the King?”

“I do not know,” she said. “The last I heard, he was heading to Weymouth to try. If he isn’t there, presumably he’ll be in Brighton with His Royal Highness.”

“I guess it was ill advised to build a house here, when either one of those towns would seem to be a better location for a summer home,” Granger said.

“I disagree,” Caroline said. “I think this was the optimal location. We are close to both of those places, yet we are here where it is much more peaceful and remote. There are enough people who summer here to provide for interesting conversation, and I find it wonderful to be able to watch the ships come and go. It helps me visualize you on your vessel, whichever one you happen to be aboard at the time.”

He smiled. “I have been through a few lately. I served as captain of the Renown for a little over a month.”

“So you told William,” she said. “It was not pleasant?”

“It was not,” he said. He told her all about Sawyer, and the fleet maneuver that had caused such hubbub in the first place. And he told her about the dreary but competent officers on the ship, and how rude Sawyer had been when he’d assumed command a few hours ago. “I am full of anxiety for the officers and crew, and for what they must deal with in such an insane captain.”

“That is because you care about the people who serve you,” she said affectionately, since she found it to be one of Granger’s more endearing traits. “You are not without options here.”

“I’m not?” Granger asked, even as he began to think about it.

“It seems to me that the only thing you can do is try to protect the officers from some sort of witch hunt by Sawyer,” she said. “I think that is possible. I would raise the issue with Lord Spencer when you see him.”

“I will do that,” Granger said, smiling. “And do you know why I have been recalled from the Channel Fleet?”

“I do,” she said, but got a bit nervous, perhaps because they’d had issues in the past when she’d interfered with his career, or more specifically, with officers who were assigned to him.

“You are sending me to China?” he teased.

“I am not sending you anywhere, but if I were to ship you off, it would not be to China,” she said.

“And why not?”

“Because I do not like the style of their furniture and décor, and I do not want you adding Chinese statues to our fountains,” she said, making him laugh.

“I think you underestimate the attractiveness of a large Buddha with water bubbling out of his head,” Granger joked back.

“I am not sending you anywhere,” she said. “This is Daventry’s doing.”

“I am most interested to hear what he has in store for me,” Granger said, and was a bit annoyed that Daventry was acting as if Granger was at his beck and call.

“There was an unfortunate incident in the channel last month,” she told him. “A Danish frigate, the Freya, was escorting a convoy and the Navy intercepted them and attempted to inspect the ships.”

“The blockade is ineffective if neutral powers are able to take any cargos they want into French ports,” Granger said dogmatically. And that was the issue, for which there seemed little room to compromise. Britain refused to allow neutral merchants to import stores that were contraband, and insisted on inspecting ships before they were allowed to pass. Neutral nations, especially the Northern Powers of Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, saw this as a violation of their sovereignty.

“Here’s the news sheet announcing it,” she said, and handed Granger the paper.

On the 25th of July, at 6h. p.m., the Danish 18-pounder 40-gun frigate Freya, Captain Krabbe, in charge of a convoy, was fallen in with, in the North Sea, by the 28-gun frigate Nemesis, Captain Thomas Baker, having a squadron in company. Captain Krabbe refusing to allow any of the ships under his convoy to be searched, and having fired upon a boat sent away with that intention, the Nemesis and Arrow sloop opened fire upon the Danish frigate, and after a short action, in which the Nemesis and Arrow had each two men killed, the Freya hauled down her colours, having suffered a similar loss. The Freya and her convoy were escorted by Nemesis and Arrow to the Downs.

Blood had been shed, which was a horrible escalation. “Are we at war with Denmark?”

“Not yet, at least not as far as I know,” Caroline said. “Suffice it to say that this has not been an easy time for Lord Grenville.”

“I should think not,” Granger said, thinking of the challenge this would throw at the Foreign Secretary.

“There is to be a diplomatic attempt to resolve this crisis, which means we must send envoys to Copenhagen and St. Petersburg,” she said, then explained further. “Denmark is incensed about the Freya affair, while the entire Northern Alliance is the brainchild of Tsar Paul.”

“It would seem to be a good idea to try and resolve this without more blood being shed,” Granger noted. “And it would also be a good idea to keep the substantial fleets of those countries from joining the French cause.”

“I suspect that is a key objective,” Caroline said. “The government is planning to dispatch Lord Whitworth to Copenhagen.”

“He is the biggest sage on the Northern Powers, or so I have heard,” Granger said.

“He was quite influential in Russia until Paul became enamored of the French and demanded his recall,” she said. “So he will only be going as far as Denmark.”

“Then who will be going to Russia?” Granger asked.

“Lord Daventry,” she said. “But he will only go if you take him.”

“That is a lot to digest,” Granger said, pondering what that would mean. Daventry was not a diplomat, but a member of the secret service. Why would they send a spy to do a diplomat’s job? And why did Daventry insist that he take him there? He posed the latter question to Caroline.

“Daventry explained to me that there is bound to be much uncertainty, and it is most likely to be a hazardous mission, in that Russia, Sweden, and Denmark are all considered hostile countries at this point,” she told him. “He wants you to take him because you are smart, and you are good at thinking of ways out of difficult situations.”

“Laudable compliments, even if they are undeserved,” Granger said modestly. Caroline found his self-deprecation to be tedious at times, and this was one of them, so she pressed the discussion on.

“So that is why you were recalled from the Channel Fleet,” she summarized. “Daventry wants you to take him to Russia, so the government will task you to do just that.”

“I do not have a ship to take him in,” Granger said.

“I discovered that the Admiralty sent out a recall for Valiant shortly after you resolved the issues regarding the Guild with Mr. Pitt,” Caroline informed him.

“I believe we resolved the issues,” Granger said firmly, giving her credit.

“In any event, it is hoped that Valiant will arrive home soon, and then you can resume your command of her,” Caroline said with a bit of sadness, since that would take him away from England. “If not, I suspect they will find you an alternative vessel.”

“If I am going north, I’d best make sure that whichever ship they give me has a stove in it,” he said, thinking of how miserably cold it would be in the Baltic in winter. Caroline ignored that comment, because she didn’t want to think about him freezing in some Swedish gulf.

“When you are tasked to take this mission on, I would suggest that would be an ideal time to ascertain that Renown’s officers will be kept safe from Captain Sawyer,” she said.

“Spencer is going to think that any time he sends me on assignment, he must barter with me,” Granger grumbled, even though he would do exactly as Caroline dictated.

“I would advise you to seek out Daventry as soon as you can, so he can give you more details,” she said.

“I have been ordered to report to London, so if he is not there, I fear I will be a bit in the dark,” Granger admitted.

“I think that Spencer will be able to inform you effectively, even if you don’t talk to Daventry first, and I would guess, based on how he talks about you and how he treats me when you are gone, that he is quite fond of you, and would try to watch out for your best interests,” she said. That implied that Spencer had taken Granger under his wing to a much greater degree than Granger had suspected. Caroline all but read his mind. “You must remember that Spencer must not appear to be too partisan on your behalf.”

“That makes sense,” Granger said. “I have a lot of respect for Lord Spencer, but I have certainly had my disagreements with him.”

“Whatever spats you may have had, they certainly aren’t enough to sour how he evidently feels about you,” she said.

“I am honored to be so esteemed in his mind,” Granger said, a little flummoxed by that, and a bit uncomfortable as he grappled with that in his mind.

“I think it is well-deserved,” Caroline said.

Desperate to change the subject, Granger raised a new topic. “What will happen to Calvert when I resume command of the Valiant?”

“He is to be given command of another frigate. I believe that was part of the deal when they gave Calvert Valiant,” she said. Caroline did not really like Francis Calvert, and even though she tried to hide it, it was very visible to Granger.

“That is a good thing, since Calvert is a very good captain,” Granger said.

“I would suspect he had a good teacher, and role model,” she said. By mentioning Calvert, Granger had annoyed Caroline, so she had hoped to return that irritation slightly by flattering him so, but in this case, Granger wasn’t afflicted with his normal modesty.

“When I was welcomed into the Lords, Lord Hood told me that what is most important is the people you leave behind you, meaning that there is nothing so rewarding as seeing one of your subordinates become very successful.”

“That must be quite a feeling,” Caroline said supportively.

“Lord Barnfield shuttled me to and from the Inshore Squadron on his new command, the Courser,” Granger said, thinking of another.

“He is such a delightful young man,” she said, since she spent much time with Barnfield at social events. “Which reminds me to tell you of Lord Brookstone.” He’d taken Brookstone aboard Belvidera as a midshipman shortly after he’d taken command of her.

“And what has become of him?” Granger asked.

“He is commanding a sloop now,” Caroline told him. “Some of our nautical staff members have told me that the ship, who’s name I forget, is a sister ship of Intrepid.”

Brookstone was a good officer, and a very bright man. “It is tantalizing to think of what an exceptional young captain like Brookstone can do in such a ship.”

“Indeed,” she agreed.

“And I should share news with you that you probably have not heard,” Granger said. “Lennox was posted.” Lennox had been one of the first midshipmen Granger had been lucky enough to appoint, back when he’d been in command of Intrepid.

“Lennox is a captain? How did that happen?” she asked.

“Lord St. Vincent asked one of his admirals to post him as flag captain, and used it to repay an old debt,” Granger said.

“That was quite a debt to repay,” Caroline noted. She’d become quite well versed on naval politics, and knew that any admiral guarded those key staff appointments jealously, and usually had one of his own subordinates he wanted or needed to reward.

“I must travel to London with Admiral Berkeley tomorrow, and I will see how things go from there.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” she asked. Granger was worried that with either answer, he may be wrong, so he hedged.

“I will leave that to you,” he said.

“I think I will stay here, at least for now,” she said.

“I will keep you informed, and you can certainly return to London if need be,” he replied.

“You appear to be finished with your dinner,” she noted.

He smiled at her. “I am wondering if you would like to join me for a bath?”

“An excellent idea,” she said, and then, in the wonderful fresh water of his baths, Granger was truly reunited with his wife.

 

August 1800

The Admiralty, London

 

Granger walked into the familiar building, thinking of his former officers like Calvert and Barnfield who were so successful, but he was not filled with pride, rather, he was filled with apprehension for Harmon and Hornblower. He signed in on the register, and then scanned the waiting room, using his peripheral vision, until he landed on a familiar face. Rodney Roberts smiled broadly even as he stood up, only with his massive physique, it almost looked as if a Greek statue had suddenly arisen. He had been Granger’s first lieutenant on Belvidera, holding that position until he’d transferred to the Captain to fight with Nelson at the Battle of St. Vincent. Granger walked over and held out his hands warmly. He noticed the single epaulet on Roberts’ shoulder, showing that he was no longer merely a commander. “What a pleasure to see you, Captain, and even greater pleasure to see that your epaulet has leapt from one shoulder to the other.”

“Not nearly as good as seeing you, my lord,” Roberts said, gripping Granger’s hands back firmly. “I’ve just been posted this week.”

“To what ship?” Granger asked, even as he led Roberts off to less crowded portion of the room.

“I’ve been given the Rattlesnake, a ship I have heard you have some familiarity with, my lord,” Roberts said.

“She is a fine ship, and a worthy one for someone of your talents,” Granger said. “Is she here?”

“Yes, my lord, she’s at Sheerness,” Roberts said. “I am here to receive my final orders, and then we’re to sail shortly.”

“Do you mind if I ask where you’re bound?”

“I am bound for the East Indies,” Roberts said.

“Whom did you vex to get that position?” Granger teased, since the East Indies was not the ideal posting for most officers.

“I think it was part of the arrangement, with me getting Rattlesnake, my lord,” he said.

“I am wondering if I could impose upon you for a few things,” Granger said.

“I am at your service, my lord,” Roberts said.

“If you are free this evening, I would love to host you for dinner, and then perhaps I can give you some insights based on my own experiences in India,” Granger offered.

“I would be most obliged, my lord,” Roberts said enthusiastically.

“The other thing is that I would appreciate it if you would carry correspondence from my parents and me to my brother, Albert,” Granger said.

“Nothing could be easier, my lord,” Roberts said.

“It is rare that I have an opportunity to utilize a courier whom I can trust, so that is quite a luxury,” Granger said.

“My lord, His Lordship will see you now,” the secretary said, interrupting them.

“Quite so,” Granger said, then turned to Roberts. “I will see you when my meetings are over. If we are finished at different times, I will see you at my house.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Roberts said formally, since the secretary was watching them curiously.

Granger turned and followed the secretary back to Spencer’s office, where he found the First Lord standing to greet him, a very polite and respectful thing to do. “Granger, how good to see you,” Spencer said in a friendly way.

“It is good to see you too, sir,” Granger said, and despite his concerns and issues, began to let his guard down around this man who had evidently worked behind the scenes for him quite extensively. “I was so saddened to be recalled from the Fleet.”

Spencer laughed. “I suspect that blockade duty must weigh on your psyche after your more usual assignments.”

“It is a bit more dreary, sir, but it’s also interesting to watch the challenge His Lordship faces, trying to handle some 30 to 40 captains, and all the conflict that entails,” Granger said.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” Spencer said, and gestured for Granger to have a seat while he poured them some claret. “I am to meet with Admiral Berkeley tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to hearing what will undoubtedly be rants against St. Vincent.”

“I think you may be surprised, sir,” Granger said. Spencer looked at him quizzically. “I do not sense that Admiral Berkeley is angry and full of venom. While he was not happy about the way he was embarrassed in front of the fleet, I found him to be charming and interesting on our voyage home.”

“Let us hope that behavior continues during our meeting,” Spencer said. “St. Vincent certainly did not pillory the admiral in his reports, like I would have expected.” Spencer was, in his way, asking Granger for his opinion of the man, a subtle request that Granger understood.

“Begging your pardon, sir, but I think that Admiral Berkeley was an unlucky choice for the Inshore Squadron command. It requires a bit more boldness and aggression, in my opinion,” Granger said. “I am thinking back to the Mutiny at Spithead…”

“What a wonderful memory for you to evoke,” Spencer interrupted grumpily.

“I remember that Lord Howe was talking about Admiral Colpoys and some of his qualities, those that were predominantly focused on organizational and administrative responsibilities, sir,” Granger said. “I think that Admiral Berkeley may be that type of admiral, only with a bit more dash.”

“It would not be hard to have more dash than Colpoys,” Spencer allowed, making them both chuckle. “I read your report on Renown. You seem impressed with the officers.”

“I found them competent and effective, sir,” Granger said. “As I told Lord St. Vincent, excluding Hornblower and possibly Harmon, the officers are not exceptional, but they are good.”

“It will be good for Sawyer to have a good team to back him up,” Spencer said hastily, as if to gloss over that issue.

“Sir, from what I have heard, Captain Sawyer does nothing but abuse and undermine his officers,” Granger said firmly.

“That is hearsay, then, is it not?” Spencer asked acidly, trying to shut Granger down. He didn’t realize how strongly this issue weighed on Granger’s mind.

“Sir, I am very concerned that by leaving Captain Sawyer in command of Renown, you are hazarding that ship, which is sound and solid, and destroying the futures of the officers who serve under him,” Granger said. “He is all but insane.”

Spencer was furious at being chided by a captain, even this captain, and was about to lash out at Granger, but Granger was one of his favorite officers, and Spencer decided that reasoning with him may work better. “I am reminded of your issues with your doctor and Sir Tobias Maidstone.”

“Sir?” Granger asked, confused, since he had indeed been expecting to have all but a hurricane launched at him.

“Sir Tobias was portraying Doctor Jackson as a cold-blooded murderer, and wanted him put to death; while you and your friends were all but advocating for his sainthood,” Spencer said. “You are advocating that I remove Sawyer from command because you tell me he is insane, and while I trust and respect your opinion, it would be unfair to Sawyer for me to take action solely based on that.”

Granger worked that through in his brain. “You are telling me that, despite the cavalcade of evidence from people like me and Lord St. Vincent, you need something more tangible?”

“Yes,” Spencer said, in an annoyed way. “Sir Tobias was, at the time, a reputable advocate against Jackson. It is possible that Captain Sawyer also has such advocates.”

“I see,” Granger lied.

“No, you do not,” Spencer said, finally irritated enough to lose his cool. “If I remove Sawyer because of what you and St. Vincent say, I will be lambasted by Sawyer’s friends, who will point out that I have just heard rumors, and would point out that based on the letters I get from captains in the Channel Fleet, those people would have me believe St. Vincent is no better than Sawyer!”

“You must be fair, and you must be relatively unbiased,” Granger concluded.

“Yes,” Spencer said, but this time he was happy, because Granger got it. “Look Granger, I understand that you are worried about Renown, so in this situation, I will share my reasoning with you.”

“I would appreciate your candor, sir,” Granger said honestly.

“I agree with both you and St. Vincent that Sawyer is an idiot, and if Renown had paid off, I would not find him another ship,” Spencer said. “But it is going to be very difficult for me to accomplish removing him from command here in London. I could do it, but the cost is too high.”

Granger nodded, even as he thought about the world Spencer must live in, one where favors were exchanged in a very deliberate manner that was, at the same time, subtle and fluid. He would have to balance the cost of major or controversial decisions, and in this case, getting rid of Sawyer was too expensive. It briefly bothered Granger that Spencer would not worry about the minions who were involved in paying the price for that, namely the Renown’s wardroom, but then he reminded himself that Spencer was supposed to be looking at things from a broad perspective. “I think I understand, sir.”

“What I can and did do,” Spencer said, “is send Captain Sawyer to a place where such a removal is possible. When he arrives in Jamaica, Lord Seymour will be able to make that decision without any such qualms.”

“And then, if Lord Seymour removes Captain Sawyer and sends him home, he can be retired without a problem,” Granger mused.

“Exactly,” Spencer said. “To assuage your conscience, I will do my best to keep Renown’s officers from being black-balled for this.”

Granger smiled broadly then, since he had unbended along with Spencer, and this was the pledge he’d been seeking. “Thank you, sir.”

“Sawyer was adamant that his officers remain aboard,” Spencer said with a frown. “But Harmon managed to get himself transferred in spite of that.”

“I would think he was the only one of them with connections such that he could break free, sir,” Granger said, but in a joking kind of way.

“The others will survive, I am sure, and I will try to keep a protective eye on Lieutenant Hornblower, to keep you and Captain Pellew happy.”

“We would both appreciate that, sir,” Granger said.

“And now, let us talk about what is to happen to you,” Spencer said, even as he pulled out a very ornate box.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.

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Caroline really is the perfect wife for our hero. Her politcal instincts and contacts really make Graingers life that much easier.

Really enjoying this. Thanks.:2thumbs:

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Hard time of year to sail that direction.  Really fun to watch the homecoming as the kids grow and the home fires mature. I will await the cliff harpies by dredging Hornblower out of wherever he has sailed in my library.  Thanks as always.  

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I am please that George and Caroline have reconciled. I was not pleased that Mark wrote of Caroline's adultery and unfortunate behavior in the baths. I do not believe that it added to the story. 

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