Crossing the LIne
by Emily Regent
A/N - having seen the Scarlet Pimpernel recently (I am so behind,
I know) - I was again gutted over the loss of a fabulous character,
played well by the lovely Mr. Bamber. So here I am, righting another
wrong. For those who might not have liked SP, I've tried to keep
this Hornblower-centric, and I have probably made lots of continuity
mistakes so far as SP is concerned, as I'm using the Richard E
Grant series as canon, with a few smatterings of inspiration from
the Anthony Andrews version. The rest I'm making up entirely,
having failed to read any of the novels as yet. I have a vague
notion that Robespierre was a real historical figure; for the
purposes of this fiction, however, it might be best not to dwell
Unfortunately, I had to go and call one my main OCs 'Anthony', didn't I? For that reason, Lord Dewhurst is 'officially' called 'Tony' to avoid as much confusion as I can. Anthony the Spy is always called 'Anthony', since he has been given no other name (deliberately, I should add).
This story is set directly after Kennedy brings the two prizes
gained in 'The Prizemaster' into English port.
_CHAPTER ONE: TREVELLIAN'S LETTER_
"Congratulations on a successful first frigate command,"
Admiral Halliwell greeted Lt. Kennedy, warmly, as the latter attended
the Admiral at his club, as ordered.
"Thank you, sir," Kennedy responded. He was in high spirits; the big frigate /Hijo del Sol/ and smaller prize, the retaken /Foaming Wake/, had both been purchased by the board, and were being refitted for service in the British fleet as they spoke - the /Hijo del Sol/ to be renamed /Wildfire/. Valuable additions; the bigger ship's capture having been accredited to Kennedy by Cpt. Pellew in an act of far more generosity than he felt he deserved. However, he was able to grin at the diminutive admiral with no awkwardness; the man inspired confidence and ease in others as much as Hornblower or Pellew inspired that undying loyalty he so envied and admired.
"Well, I'm sorry that I can't offer you an instant promotion to Post rank and turn her over to you," Halliwell told him, jovially. "However, I can offer you new orders, and, if you'll permit me, a drink."
Kennedy found himself taken a little aback at this sudden hospitality, but pleased at the attention. Although he admired Pellew a great deal, and even liked the man, he yet felt awkward around him, as though he were always doing something wrong, and the break-down of his friendship with Hornblower had made for some very tense times aboard /Seawitch/. Of course, he loved the ship, and he greatly valued being able to serve with Bush, who was still a friend, and Wellard, who showed far more potential under Pellew than he could ever have done under Sawyer. He had made the acquaintance of the irrepressible Orrock (who was somewhere enjoying himself in Portsmouth, having taken command of /Foaming Wake/) and proved his worth to Matthews, Styles and the men of /Seawitch/, old hands or new.
He missed Horatio, though.
However, it felt good to be able to relax with a superior, for a change. Bush rarely put forward his seniority, any more, as he had when they served on /Renown/, Kennedy having long since 'rolled over' for him, so to speak, so it hardly felt as though he were in the company of a superior in that sense. Bush was also happier not making an issue of his rank with a friend; his humble origins sometimes made him defensive when faced with junior officers of higher social status - as it had when he first met Kennedy himself, but Kennedy had proven himself so irreverent where his connections to the nobility were concerned, that Bush could be easy. It still struck Kennedy as strange that he, himself, could be more at ease with an Admiral than a mere Captain or Commander, though.
"We never had the chance to more properly discuss events in France," Halliwell said, waving a man over to take their requests. He did so for both of them, without consulting the junior officer. "I read your reports, of course, read Anthony's and Walker'sbut let us be candid. Whoever writes the really interesting matters down?"
"I'm sorry if my report was lacking, sir," Kennedy began.
Halliwell waved him into silence. "No, no, no. I don't mean that; all the important matters were attended to in good detail your report was excellent. I mean the /interesting/ matters. The Spanish ambassador's sister, for instance; hurling yourself from a coach. Lord! I can just picture Anthony's face when you did that!"
Kennedy found himself grinning. "Well, sir I thought I was dead certainsure if I remained within the coach. At least by jumping out I hadan even chance."
Halliwell snorted in a most un-Admiral like way and sipped his scotch. "Even chance, my britches!"
"I couldn't think of anything else to do," Kennedy admitted, trying not to laugh at the admiral's turn of phrase; he must remember to spring that one on Bush, sometime. "I seemed to spend so much of my time in Francemaking it up as I went along - muddling through. It was" he trailed off, wondering how much he could and should say. Since he had been successful in the mission, it didn't seem as though it could do any harm to tell the Admiral of what he had thought and felt, but he was reluctant to make it sound as though he had merely ridden whatever luck had been around at the time.
"Go on," Halliwell encouraged. "I must have heard every tale my spies have to tell me, by now. I doubt you could shock me too greatly."
Kennedy tried not to be shocked, himself, at this confirmation of his suspicions. Admiral Halliwell was indeed the spy-master, then, as was often rumoured. But the assumption that Kennedy already knew and would keep this knowledge to himself was enough to encourage him to return that confidence. "It was almost ridiculous, sir. Indeed; had the matter been less close to my heart, I could be tempted to write some farce to keep me if peace broke out. I amastonished, sometimes, by how little I think I would have to exaggerate." He smiled again, recalling some of his greater triumphs (and, strangely, some of the greater failures). "Pretending to Cpt. Pellew, even down to dressing the part when I suggested the acta fake duel with a man pretending to be drunk who was actually my allyEven the ship I was on being attacked by a pirate. Why Drury Lane would pay a fortune!"
"So, you enjoyed yourself, then? Ha and Pellew worried for you!" Halliwell said, the mischievous look (which would have sat oddly on any other man who was in his sixties) belying the words.
Kennedy smiled into his glass, then took a short sip of the whiskey to avoid having to answer. It was a long time since he had tasted something of home and not felt like he was betraying the family beliefs. It was a long time since he had felt like he was part of the Kennedy family, and didn't just happen to have the name - it was his cousin he had to be grateful to for that.
"Seriously, Mr. Kennedy. I ask for a reason. Did you dislike being a spy so much?"
Kennedy hoped that this man could not see through an act any better than those in France had, and tried to hide his disappointment. As much as he suspected that Halliwell was commander of His Majesty's Secret Services (or whatever formal title was bestowed upon the organisation), he had also suspected that the training he had received and the success he had enjoyed on his mission were too valuable assets for them to ignore. He had already been prepared for the news that he had been pressed into service as a professional in espionage, but it still came as a blow.
But while he might hide the sting and sinking feeling, he knew he could not successfully speak a lie to Admiral Halliwell. "I disliked the necessity; I disliked being a spy in principle. But the experience was not altogether unpleasant, itself. However, I must add that this was partly because I had so little to lose; I dishonoured myself at the Court Martial; my friends believed me dead and gone. While I cannot say I had nothing to live for, exactly, as the chance to live itself is precious, I must declare that I would embark on such a task, now, with considerably more reluctance."
He looked for any sign that he had given offence, but Halliwell patted his arm, fondly.
"Can I say," the Admiral asked, "that part of your reluctance would come from the disappointment you suffered? The dockyard construction being abandoned, when you had jeopardised so much in retrieving the plans?"
Kennedy looked away. The news had come to him at a time when the realisation of how audacious his plan had been was beginning to sink into him; and therefore how great his success really was. It had been shattering to hear that all his efforts were in vain, and that he could have spared himself and others so much confusion and torment. Not to mention the insult to Scotland he was not ashamed of his heritage; it was a fine one, and he was all too aware of how men seemed to think the island ended at the border. Crammond Dock would have changed that; made Leith and the north impregnable by that route and become a major defence for Britain. If Bonaparte had moved his entire army to Britain, they could have held that delta, and however many Frenchman stood on English soil, not one damn enemy ship could have come up the Firth of Forth to cut them off from the North. What Leith couldn't destroy, Crammond could have pulverized from its own vantage.
It had been the initial appeal to his national pride that allowed Pellew to convince him to make the first, disastrous, attempt at retrieving the documents from Cpt. Sawyer.
"Frustrating, isn't it?" Halliwell said, very softly, as though trying to blend his voice into his thoughts without intruding. "I opposed the abandonment, myself. I know how Trevellian operates because he's been Anthony's particular project for years, and if he offered sealed plans for sale, then sealed plans was what he gave! Goddamn admiraltyso far up it's own-" he cut himself off, and sighed. "But I think that should not lessen your success at all."
"No, sir," Kennedy agreed, but they both knew that he didn't feel the words; he was merely saying them.
"Do you understand why it is necessary to have spies, Mr. Kennedy?" Halliwell asked.
"Aye, sir," he responded, instantly. This really was one area in which the Admiral would get no dissention. A fair fight was all very wellall very ideal, but men who were fanatics; Bonaparte, Moncoutant, Charette, would stop at nothing to achieve their ends, and to them, there was no such thing as a 'fair fight'; only victory. Unfortunately, that such men could rise to power meant that these had to be other men willing to match them; some were brilliant men who could be held up for public praise: Nelson; Jervis. Then there had to be men who could match the enemy's guile and cunning and be content with their part, without public acknowledgement: Anthony, Walker, and in their own way for their own cause, Nolan and Hammond.
"What of honour?" came the unexpected question.
"Sir?" Kennedy asked, once again suddenly confused by the Admiral, and caught without a ready answer.
Halliwell smiled. "You taught Edward Pellew more about the spying business than any of my efforts ever achieved with him, you know. You also showed your own friend, Hornblower, exactly why he could never be a spy, and why Sir Edward could never have given him the mission."
"I think Cpt. Pellew was amused by Lord Cassillis, in a way," Kennedy smiled, knowing that wasn't really an answer, but could steer conversation into less disturbing territory.
The Admiral shook his head. "No, man! No. You make your own life dashed difficult, you realise!"
Kennedy wondered how close Anthony and the Admiral were. The spy had told him something much the same.
"You walked into that courtroom at great personal cost, dying, sealing your fate - and knowing it. Your words aren't really important, now, but you looked Sir Edward in the eye and said 'sir there are more important things than honour and doing the /right/ thing doesn't always mean doing the /honourable/ thing.' I don't believe anything I ever told him and don't forget that Cpt. Pellew is my friend as well as a fellow officer so succinctly stated that honour was not as important as he thought."
Kennedy felt at a loss. "I hadI had never considered the matter in such a way, sir," he managed, eventually.
"And that is the reason why you don't need to be honourable in other men's eyes to be a good man yourself. If you were proud of the fact, then you would be trying to substitute it for honour. That you truly understand honour's place, in the grander scheme of things, makes you the greater asset." Halliwell gave him a sympathetic smile. "It makes you a better friend to those fortunate enough to be your own, even if you had to shame Mr. Hornblower in the process."
Kennedy reacted to that conclusion with a start. That might even go some way to explaining Hornblower's apparent dislike for him. The Commander valued honour above all else, and yet Kennedy had valued Hornblower's life above his own honour, and had proved it by sacrificing it for him. Perhaps that had been a lesson too bitter for Hornblower's taste, and Kennedy was suffering for having been the one to teach it.
"And for the right cause" the Admiral allowed the beginnings of the sentiment to trail off.
It proved how comfortable he felt, thought Kennedy, that he could ask his question without fear or second thought. "Sir - am I to understand that I am to be given orders for myself, rather than carrying them to the Captain?"
"Well" Halliwell tried, drawing the syllable out. "Yes," he ended abruptly. "Or rather, 'perhaps'. This is also a personal matter and I'll require an honest reactionnot what you think I want to hearnot what impression you want to give meabsolute honesty."
"Aye-aye, sir," Kennedy answered, hoping whatever reaction he had was what the Admiral wanted to hear and would give a good impression into the bargain.
"Tell me about your family," the Admiral ordered, suddenly. "Your father had two brothers and a sister, yes? And some rift took place?"
"Uhyes sir." It was not hopelessly embarrassing to explain what had happened to Halliwell; he was probably quite familiar with the matter as his own agents looked over Cassillis' mail and knew the details of his business to the extent of giving him advice on how to go about rebuilding the Culzean properties. Halliwell had probably asked in order for them both to revise the situation that had seen them in such disrepair for so long.
"My grandfather was to blame for the ruination of the Kennedy family estates - a devout Jacobite, he put much of his wealth to that cause. His eldest son; the next Earl of Cassillis had many of the same sympathies, and put these before the family or those on the estate; his second son removed himself from the situation, all but losing touch with the rest, and made his own way, as did my own father. My aunt, however, married the Duke of Exeter and tried to keep some contact between the other three. They all remained in touch with her, although not with each other - I was my father's only child, and was kept separate from all my cousins, except Lord Exeter's children - the eldest has since inherited, the second and third joined the army and navy respectively and the youngest was killed in a riot in Paris. Cassillis - the present Earl, that is - was actually very close to them; he also re-established links between himself and our other two cousins; one of whom used to
manage his estates through the law firm in which he was a partnerhe died recently; gout - too much drink. The other is Major Kennedy. When my own father died - in fact, only my aunt was alive of the generation at that point - Cassillis made my way into the Navy."
Halliwell nodded. "What was your cousin doing in Paris?"
"Oh, some nonsense," Kennedy said dismissively. He had been fond of Tony Dewhurst; they were nearly the same age, and had been good friends, frequent correspondents and as close as the geographic distance between them would allow. Then Tony had fallen in with the foolish Percy Blakeney. He had also been friends with Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, but the latter seemed almost too sensible and sensitive a man to be involved with an idiot like Blakeney. However it had come about, though, Tony had become one of his foppish devotees (despite his bad stutter - was there a Kennedy alive without some defect, besides the Major?) and at around the same time, Kennedy had found himself in the Navy. Tony had been killed a short while later.
"He fell in with Lord Percy Blakeney. The fool had wanted to visit his tailor - who naturally lived in Paris - and dragged poor Tony with him on his private yacht. While he was commenting on the fine cut of his latest coat, Tony and another of his friends were caught in a riot. The other man, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes was apparently assisting a lady at the time my cousin met with his accident. I'm afraid I don't know the exact details of his death - his body was never recovered, and I've always assumed he fell and was trampled to death, or set upon by Revolutionaries."
The admiral was nodding in apparent sympathy. Then he held out a parchment for Kennedy to read, and he recognised the hand almost instantly. The direction was to the Rt Hon. Earl of Cassillis, Richard Kennedy, but it was in English, and had certainly been sent by Trevellian.
_CHAPTER TWO: THE LIBERTIES THEY TAKE IN FRANCE_
'I hope this missive finds you in excellent health and having recovered from your adventures and disappointments in France. Although I must immediately inform you that this letter does not concern the matter in Scotland that we had discussed previously, I believe the information it contains will still be of use to you, and we may be in a position to assist each other. This intelligence, however, is yours to act upon as you believe appropriate, and I offer it as a mark of my good faith.'/
Kennedy hadn't realised he'd been muttering the letter aloud until the Admiral interrupted. "When Trevellian says 'good faith', he means it. Ironically, he's absolutely trustworthy in some matters."
/'You are, I understand, related in some fashion to the noble family Dewhurst of Exeter, and that one of the sons of this household had the misfortune to be killed in this country's capital. I am further informed that only a memorial stands, instead of a grave. For this you have my deepest sympathy.'/
The missive read as though the death of Tony had been a recent event, not one that was perhaps a decade old, and that this paragraph was an expression of sympathy. That he knew there was no body lying in the family crypt was significant, and Kennedy kept it in mind almost absently as he continued to read.
/'Recently, I had the opportunity to meet an erstwhile hero of the Revolution, although I have little taste for such 'heroes', who now lives quietly at his own estate somewhat northerly to my own. He has become some kind of friend of Bonaparte's, and thought that I could assist him by offering my services as a scholarly researcher. It is not the only time I have been made such an offer by friends of Bonaparte, but I would find this particular appointment very distasteful, and would be very pleased to find the task unnecessary for some reason. I must find some excuse - perhaps you could suggest some alternative business which has engaged my full attention? My gratitude would be undying, I assure you.'/
'Academic research' was how the outside world believed Trevellian made his living; those who had been brought into his confidence as 'fellow researchers' - such as Kennedy - were familiar with the euphemism that was used to disguise his true profession from the outside world. Of course, either this Revolutionary had believed Trevellian's cover, and Trevellian was in trouble because he couldn't live up to the ruse, or he knew what Trevellian was really about. In either case, this revealed the service he believed Cassillis could perform - hardly finding an excuse for him to refuse, but rather, remove the necessity, perhaps through some moreharmfulmanner.
/'Not that the task itself is not to my liking; indeed, a most
fascinating subject for study for its own sake, but the man himself
'As a way of making himself more persuasive, he offered me the services of some of the ladies who are within his employ when I was forced by the weather to remain overnight. On my refusal, he mistook my reasons, and offered me similar services of a gentleman who is apparently in similar employ. He was an Englishman, interestingly, who bore some small resemblance to your good self-'/
The glass of Scotch that he had been sipping fell from Kennedy's
suddenly numb fingers, and his stomach turned over so that he
thought he was about to disgrace himself before the Admiral. One
of the club servants came to attend the mess of shattered glass
and alcohol and enquired about his health while Halliwell asked
for some water for him, and placed his hand on Kennedy's shoulder,
taking the letter, although Kennedy hadn't finished reading it.
"A clever man," he murmured. "This could be correspondence between any associates, and any ex-Revolutionary friend of Bonaparte's as he has several. If the letter were intercepted, not one would necessarily have any reason to believe it was about him."
Kennedy nodded, not feeling that it was relevant, and not caring, for the moment, if it was. Tony was aliveTony was alive and being offered as - he couldn't think it - to anyone who might want such. He knew what it was to be a prisoner in France; where prison guards were permitted to take whatever liberties they wished with their prisoners. He seldom thought back to his own experiences any more, but that Tony was-
He couldn't think it.
In order to keep his wits, Kennedy mentally grasped onto the only other feeling that was within easy reach, and was frightened by the extent to which he hated Blakeney and Ffoulkes at that moment. He had never truly detested anyone that much since Simpson; had he even despised /him/ this much? If either of those gentlemen were before him now, he would be using some of the skills as an assassin that he had been taught, and to hell with the consequences.
"Listen to me, Kennedy - listen!" He had his head in his hands, concentrating on the fierce hatred of Blakeney and his friends that felt like his only refuge from the sick despair. The Admiral grabbed his wrists and forced Kennedy to look up - Halliwell scarcely had to bend down to look him in the face, and he was surprised that the tiny, elderly man could exert that much physical force. "This might not have happened - it could just be Trevellian's way of saying that his Revolutionary was keeping your cousin prisoner. This-" he shook the paper before Kennedy's eyes "-isn't necessarily true. Do you understand that?"
As well as spying and its accompanying skills, Kennedy had been trained to pull his mind away from distress and think rationally, and he put that training to use, now; thinking about what the Admiral was saying. Yes - yes, it made sense. It was better to put this fiction into the letter, so any interception by an ex-Revolutionary trying to recruit Trevellian would not trace an event back to themselves, or others of questionable morals. He did not instantly feel better; he knew French prisons and so could not believe that his worst fears were put to rest. He did, however, feel calmer.
"I understand, sir," he affirmed, gruffly, giving the reply confidently, so the Admiral could know that he meant it, and hadn't just said 'yes' to be rid of his attentions.
The servant was back and gave Halliwell the glass of water, apparently not trusting Kennedy's shaking hands. He attended to the shattered glass and spilled Scotch. "Are you ill, sir?" he asked. "Shall I call the apothecary?"
"Distressing news," Kennedy answered. "In a lettertook me aback." The edited truth came more easily than a lie. It even came more easily than truth itself.
"I'm sorry, sir," the servant said, to the proper extent of his interest.
Once he had departed, with a last sympathetic glance for the lieutenant, and Kennedy had managed to calmly sip half the water, Halliwell resumed, softly.
"We've managed to gather some intelligence ourselves concerning your cousin's 'death'," he said. "We don't have the full story, since we're investigating events a decade old, but I promise that this is everything we /do/ have - your cousin and Sir Andrew were in the company of an actress while Blakeney was elsewhere - his tailor, as you say, perhaps; trouble broke out and a French Revolutionary attempted to shoot Blakeney as he exited the building; Dewhurst tried to stop him and was shot himself. As Ffaulks took the actress out of danger, one of the French agents by the name of Chauvelin found your cousin wounded and it was believed he then delivered the fatal shot.
"We now believe that Chauvelin, whose orders were to discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and capture him if possible, took Dewhurst prisoner as a suspect - most English aristocrats were suspects, at that point. He faked the shooting in order to prevent rescue - if Dewhurst was the Pimpernel, then he could expect the 'League', as they called themselves, to come to his aid, and he would be eager to stop that. Chauvelin's ruse worked."
"So this Chauvelin has Tony," Kennedy concluded. It was not among the names from the Revolution that he could recall, the events being too far in the past and beyond his own interest, now.
"Not quite. Chauvelin worked for Robespierre."
/That/ name made Kennedy look up; he wouldn't know the identities of most 'heroes' of the Revolution, but even he knew that one. If it were not for Bonaparte, Robespierre would be one of the most powerful and dangerous men in France. Dammit - he still was one of the most powerful and dangerous men in France, and was generally considered either one of Bonaparte's greatest rivals or, should they find some common ground, potentially his greatest ally. Kennedy could guess for himself that Robespierre would endear himself to the would-be Emperor, and then wait in the wings for some opportunity to remove Napoleon and rise himself, or for someone else to remove Bonaparte. Either way, being the successor would be quite safe, if his first act were war upon those accused of murdering his beloved leader.
Kennedy knew that a united France, at peace with too many people, threatened Trevellian's lifestyle and possibly his very life, if a new 'friend' were to betray him. He loved his country, but believed that conflict made France stronger, and he had not liked either the Revolutionary's bloody solution, or Napoleon's Imperial solution. He would rather see France superior to every other nation than merely allied with them. Yet, in partnership, Robespierre and Bonaparte would be unstoppable, and rather than a stable system of sovereignty, Napoleon would be a single man with too much power, and everyone else too little, but those few who had any would be constantly trying to wrest it from Bonaparte, leaving him with less attention to focus on his country.
It definitely made sense that Trevellian's price for his assistance with the possible liberation of Lord Dewhurst would be the removal of Robespierre, and the two would be more easily accomplished together. In fact, if some of the rumours concerning Robespierre were true, then the whole world really was better off with Bonaparte.
"If it turns out to be Robespierre to whom Trevellian refers, (and I'm afraid that is not something we have been able to confirm or dismiss - we only suspect) then we could do much worse than distract his attention from his possible support of Bonaparte," Halliwell said. "I, for one, would not like to see them working together - I'd prefer them in opposition."
"As would I," Kennedy answered, faintly, but sincerely. His own attention was on his cousin.
The agents employed by Admiral Halliwell were impressed by
the ease with which the Earl of Cassillis had adapted to having
his affairs and embarrassing financial standing known to so many,
and his private correspondence perused to within an inch of its
life. Some of this humiliation, no doubt, was lessened, when the
Secret Services could give him much better advice on how to rebuilt
Culzean, and bring the estates into profitable and reputable distinction
in return for the use of his identity for one of Halliwell's spies
- and his own cousin, besides - rather than for financial reward.
Cassillis considered himself very lucky indeed that they hadn't discovered all his own secrets. That he smuggled in the occasional bottle of brandy or other French goods was gallantly overlooked, since the Service didn't really see such activities as their purview, and he didn't run any kind of smuggler's ring to excess, or offer them permanent shelter in the natural bay below the Castle. They were not aware, however, and nor could they turn that same blind eye, were they do discover that he was also used to being part of a secret organisation.
His poor health and devotion to the restoration of his family's honour and reputation prevented Cassillis from being an active member of the League of the Pimpernel. He was such a lowly member, in fact, that he wasn't even sure which of them was actually the Pimpernel himself, although he strongly suspected Sir Andrew Ffoulkes. Blakeney and Timothy Hastings were also candidates, but Ffoulkes the more likely. He had also considered Sir William Weatherby, but he was now deceased some five or so years. So since Blakeney took the lead in society, it was logical to assume that somebody else took such a position in the League, and Blakeney stood as a worthy distraction. The late Weatherby had also been quite elderly, and Cassillis knew the Pimpernel's activities had continued after his death, and in so much the same style, that he did not believe it was an apprentice.
His cousin, Dewhurst, had known, though. It was through Dewhurst that Cassillis had become involved, although that participation extended only to offering the small harbour for the over-seas arrivals and a temporary accommodation and hiding place for the French émigrés. He was even paid a little rent by those who had not lost everything in their escape. The service that he offered seemed very small to Cassillis - barely worth the secrecy, or even gratitude that he received, and he didn't really care much about the French, aristocratic or poor, innocent or tyrant. However, he did care about those children who had no chance to become either tyrant or benefactor being denied their very lives - and that had been a cause of which he approved and understood, and which Dewhurst had been devoted to. That was enough.
So to have another Agency (albeit a legitimate one, this time) become intimate with his affairs was not a new experience, so he did not find it especially difficult to adjust. He had not, however, revealed to them his former association with the League; there was a good chance they would not believe that he still stood in ignorance of the identity of their leader, and although the 'fashion' for the Scarlet Pimpernel's heroics was over, occasionally something happened to stir up the interest and speculation again. The Secret Service tended to listen to those rumours with some attention, themselves.
The League was believed disbanded, now that the Revolution was over, but there were people - and not all of them aristocratic - who were in some danger from Bonaparte, and occasionally, the League was 'put on alert' and another French citizen rescued. Cassillis had already informed them, via Ffoulkes, now poor Tony Dewhurst was dead, that his house could no longer be considered as safe as it once was, although they might still make use of the bay, and he could assist in an emergency if they could pretend to be one of his occasional smuggler friends. They had better bring some brandy in case they were spotted by the Secret Service, though.
"I thought you despised brandy, Cassillis," Ffoulkes had said.
"I do, my dear, but I can always give it back to you for Christmas."
But this new information - the letter from Trevellian with his name, but which was intended for his cousin Archie - couldn't be kept from the League. Two sleepless nights trying to reconcile his conscience with the secret had convinced him of that, and so an invitation was issued for a few old friends to join him at Castle Culzean, as they used to do in the old days. Thank goodness the Service kept out of his way enough for him to be sociable when he chose.
He was at the door when Blakeney jumped down from his carriage with far too much enthusiasm, and approached him warmly, bestowing upon him an exaggerated embrace to disguise their soft, urgent communication. "Trouble?" Blakeney asked.
"News; urgent news," he breathed. He was forced to keep his quiet, since Lord Percy was crushing the air from his lungs.
"League news, personal news, perhaps."
He was released from the embrace and regarded through a glass, kept on a ribbon around the man's neck. "Sink meh, but it's cold in this wilderness!" Percy declared, taking himself uninvited to the house, and availing himself of the waiting servant by thrusting his coat and cane into his custody.
Sir Andrew came forward to shake Cassillis' hand more civilly. "It's good to see you," he said quietly, but they both knew that it was also painful. The Kennedy looks were strong and tended to breed true; besides some differences in hair colour and height, they shared the same features, build, and often the same manners and enthusiasm, although not always the same interests. A variety of ailments also seemed to run down the family tree, ranging from mere inconvenience such as stuttering to the more severe, stark, raving insanity which had seen his grandfather hurl himself from the castle battery and down the cliffs on hearing of his prince's defeat in 1746. His own wasting illness, the Lieutenant's fits and the late solicitor's compulsions represented the middle ground. (He suspected the Major was going to suffer as his grandfather, but more probably under the guise of battle-fever, for which he would be honoured, rather than disparaged).
Ffoulkes had also been very fond of his cousin Dewhurst; both men quieter than Lord Percy, and both very much over-shadowed by him, they had spent a lot of time together. Ffoulkes had no family and Tony thought it best, if he were to be in the League, to distance himself from his own, thus represent less danger to them should he be discovered. It had resulted in a close friendship between the two men, and whenever Andrew saw him, Cassillis knew that he was seeing Dewhurst. Their cousin Archie had been hurt by the separation, and inconsolable at the news of Dewhurst's death; moreso as it had come so close to those of his parents. He dreaded ever introducing Ffoulkes to the Lieutenant; the likeness between him and cousin Dewhurst was remarkable - their similarity in age meant they might be taken for twins.
Finding time for them to speak privately was not difficult - Percy took over the large table in the library to show them some of the fictional improvements he intended to make to the /Daydream/: apparently consulting his old friend Cassillis for his knowledge of nautical affairs. He brought out huge rolls of paper, disrespectfully weighed down with some of the heavier volumes within the library. With the space in the centre of the room being a considerable distance from any shelves, no Service ears were likely to hear them, and Cassillis suspected they were too well-behaved to put him under covert surveillance. He was not a suspect in Service business, after all; he barely even rated as a contact or safe-house. It paid, however, to take whatever precautions were available.
"I received a letter informing me that that Tony is alive and held prisoner," Cassillis declared, with no gentle introduction.
There was stunned silence for a few moments - sadness and grief allowed to visit briefly and pass on. "Who would send you news like that?" Percy demanded. Ffoulkes was looking away, feeling the guilt, again, no doubt. Cassillis couldn't reiterate his own forgiveness yet again without sounding insincere and he couldn't offer cousin Archie's because he had made it quite clear in their one brief discussion on the matter that he did /not/ forgive.
"Well, truth be told, it wasn't to me; my cousin has entered the Service, hence" he nodded towards the door to indicate the presence of other agents. "He used my identity and met a valuable contact in France while executing his duty. This contact made the discovery and informed /him/."
"Which cousin?" asked Percy.
"The Navy one. And I'd appreciate it if /that/ went no further." He knew he didn't really have to ask, but both men nodded anyway. They were too used to caution and secrecy to take offence whenever the need for it was reiterated.
"I wish I could meet the man," Percy said loudly. "He could show me how better to design the blasted rigging without toppling the whole affair over! I don't see what the height of a mast should have to do with the length of the hull! And why /can't/ we make the canvas lighter? Sink meh, Andrew - what are we to do?"
Andrew smiled. "I don't know, Percy. As I've already said," he replied, wearily.
"You may meet him yet," Cassillis warned. "The letter is now in the hands of the Admiral in charge, who is probably going to inform my cousin of the situation. May even give him permission to act on it; even order him to do so."
"If Tony is being held prisoner, we have to free him, Percy, we have to," Andrew insisted.
"I know," Percy replied, just as heavily. "Have they given any indication of how much they know about what happened?"
"Not to me. I'm sure the Admiral would tell Lieutenant Kennedy all he knows, however."
"Which Admiral?" Percy asked.
"Who's the Pimpernel?" Cassillis asked in return, denying the request, and explaining why in one expedient statement. The other two men exchanged glances, but accepted that he wasn't going to say any more than he already had. At least there was no particular reason to think it was Admiral Halliwell; he had been Pellew's patron, and they could easily find that his cousin served aboard Pellew's ship - that particular relationship could have come about via that route. The Lieutenant could receive his Service orders from any other Admiral. The exchanged glance between the other two men, however, did tell Cassillis that he was indeed in the presence of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, and he felt that familiar thrill at being involved, despite his feelings for cousin Dewhurst's situation.
"Andrew, I'm sorry to ask" Lord Percy began. "But we need to know the details, if Tony survived, of /how/."
Cassillis had heard the story - Ffoulkes had considered it to be the very least he could offer the Earl, but his pain at having to relive the event was obvious. That his hope of rescuing him had been kindled was also obvious.
"We were with Minette - we saw Chauvelin come after you and Fumiere prepare to fire. Tony flung himself on Fumiere, while I kept Minette back. I tried to stop him-" he cut himself off, remembering with effort that he was not here to justify the matter, simply to say what he had seen. "The pistol went off into Tony, but I couldn't see quite wherehe was on the ground. Fumiere kicked him. He dragged himself up, against the wall. Minette had started to pull me away, and we tried to move inconspicuously. Chauvelin returned, having lost you, Percy, and he was angry. He aimed the pistol at Tony's head, and as Minette and I retreated, he fired. The barrel was less than a foot from Tony, I swear - he couldn't have missed."
"Unless he wanted to," Percy pointed out. "Did you see him fire, or just heard the shot?"
Ffoulkes considered, frowning - trying to recall details from ten years previously that he did not even want to remember. "No! I didn't see him fire!" he said, suddenly. "I saw him aim, but we were escaping ourselves at that point. Minette was pulling me after her. It was when I heard the shot that I turned - /afterwards/; trying to discover where Tony had fallen, but he was so short"
Cassillis found himself nodding. It had always been easy to lose Dewhurst in a crowd because of his height. Kennedy suffered for that as well, a little, but Dewhurst had been a little shorter, if memory served. It was likely that Ffoulkes hadn't been able to see a thing.
"Then the last assumption we make is that Tony is alive and in need of rescue," Percy decided. "Cass - do you know where he may be held?"
"The letter suggested Robespierre, at his estate," Cassillis reported, bleakly.
"Damn!" swore Ffoulkes.
_CHAPTER THREE: THE RETURN OF ANTHONY_
Anthony met him again with irritating joviality, a pat on the
shoulder that was nearly painful and loud declarations about how
marvellous it was to see him again. Walker merely smiled in a
friendly manner and shook his hand.
Their meeting began with the usual polite enquiries, although Kennedy couldn't fathom why they bothered as Anthony already seemed to know more about /Seawitch/'s activities than he did himself. "/Seawitch/ is to dock at Leith, and take us to France, where she's obliged to do a little blockade duty. Between you and me, Kennedy, I think the Admiral wants her close so he might escape his desk and go off to find some Fleet action," Anthony said, with his customary irreverence, but then his tone became more serious. "Admiral Halliwell is a good man. Generally he would leave it to yourself as to whether you act on the information or not, but since this complicates the situation...well - it involves Robespierre, and that's enough to complicate anything."
"I understand he and Bonaparte are becoming too friendly for comfort," Kennedy remarked.
"Indeed. Trevellian was good enough to confide a few of his fears to senor Antonio," Anthony reported. "He had been trying to sprinkle a few seeds of suspicion between the new friends, but Trevellian has as little to do with either of them as possible - or such grand politics. One might say surprisingly little, but in retrospect, the more he has to do with that kind of authority, the greater the danger to his other affairs. He's no honour as His Majesty's Navy would understand the term, but I've never seen him sell a man out to his enemies."
"But?" asked Kennedy.
"If he were discovered, he would attempt to save his own neck, I think, and probably endeavour to do so without endangering those from whom he makes his living. If not - " Anthony shrugged " - he still wouldn't be the only man forced into some betrayal or other. He acknowledges himself as a traitor to more than one country or person."
"He would offer no assistance so far as my cousin is concerned," Kennedy concluded. "I had supposed as much."
"Not unless it were part of some other scheme that would suit him. And then all you'd get would be information; perhaps shelternothing we can't arrange ourselves."
"Hardly likely that Bonaparte would want to steal some English aristocrat who the world believes dead," Kennedy observed, any thoughts of shifting blame in such a direction dying stillborn.
"That's the price for his help, or, I daresay getting rid of Robespierre altogether," Anthony pointed out. "I don't believe he would interfere if you used the information, however. Not even to profit from your capture, although he wouldn't lend aid if you were caught, either. He doesn't set such traps; that I can promise you - or unwittingly bait them. He's too clever for that."
Kennedy didn't answer. The only plan he could think had a chance of success was a straightforward raid and rescue. And that was impossible without knowing the layout of the place Tony was being held, or his location within the property. It was also unlikely that alone, he could plan, execute and return Tony to safety before he would have to return to /Seawitch/. Yet to simply continue with his life seemed impossible knowing what his cousin may be enduring; he felt sick each time he thought of the letter and the information it bore. That it was probably false may be something he /knew/, but had difficulty /feeling/.
Admiral Halliwell would know his conflict, though - otherwise he would not have mentioned it. Also, why would he have told Anthony if there were not some hope? Perhaps this was to be Anthony and Walker's mission; himself there only because his cousin Dewhurst would trust him, and he was competent enough in espionage not to put the mission in jeopardy.
"Needless to say we're of the same opinion as Trevellian. Robespierre and Bonaparte is not a relationship we would like to see flourish. We can use your cousin to our advantage while attempting rescue; it should be easier that way if we're to do both."
Kennedy wasn't sure he liked the sound of that; he would judge that his cousin had suffered enough already.
"You know he was involved with the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
Kennedy felt his eyebrows rise. "I would think that very unlikely," he replied. Had the matter been on any other subject, he might have laughed. Halliwell had mentioned it was the reason for Dewhurst's imprisonment, but he would be surprised to learn there was any real connection.
"Well, the Service has been interested in the League - in who they rescued as they might not be so trustworthy after all, and also as a possible recruiting ground; they might not be professionals, but they've done a damn fine job otherwise - enough to impress us /real/ professionals, at least. We don't really expect any to be especially suitable, but they must have had a wealth of information to operate as they did; and information is what the spy business is all about, and they must have had people gathering that information, and so on."
"However, my cousin-"
"Your cousin being just a suspect is valuable. We've already begun to spread and confirm such rumours, and if Dewhurst is then found alive, having been Robespierre's prisoner for the last decade...how trustworthy can Robespierre be if he didn't turn him over to the proper authorities?
"We don't even need to prove his involvement - that he's a legitimate suspect is enough for French authorities to demand why Robespierre kept him secluded. Might even make the chap a bit of a hero in England, eh?"
"What about Chauvelin?" Kennedy asked, drawing conversation away from the possibilities in Dewhurst's future. He would rather be assured that he had one before mapping it out for him. "He must have helped cover it up - could he be blackmailed into helping us?"
"Went to ground years ago," Anthony said, ruefully. "Trust me, I tried." Walker made a noise like a confirmation - a personal failure, perhaps? "Anyway - by rescuing your cousin, (and especially if he'll talk about the League, or to the newspapers, about his imprisonment) Robespierre's reputation would be in utter ruins, and that would be enough to keep old Boney away at this point since he needs every /legitimate/ supporter he can muster."
Kennedy was surprised at how subtle the plan was. Perhaps not all Service employment was as adventurous as his own single experience had been; if all it would take was some event like this to disrupt a mutually beneficial alliance between two men, then would it even be so difficult for British agents to orchestrate one? Perhapsperhaps Trevellian had known about this for some time and had been saving it in case Robespierre found favour once again? He frowned to himself; it didn't really matter - he should devote his attention to his cousin Dewhurst, and his rescue, and nothing more.
"Would the League help? They sometimes come out for special occasions," Kennedy blurted, almost feeling stupid for asking. "If Tony was taken because of them"
But Anthony - if he thought the suggestion unworthy - didn't remark on it. "Every League member or even suspect caught was later rescued. If Dewhurst wasn't, then they must believe him dead. All this assumes that he /was/ part of the League, though, and that Blakeney and his cronies weren't really in Paris for fashion's sake. They wouldn't be the only fools who were."
"Yes," Kennedy said, softly. He gave a bitter laugh at the reminder of Blakeney and Ffoulkes' involvement. "It assumes he's alive at all, and this isn't some other ruse to flush out the remainder of the League."
"I confirmed Trevellian's letter, myself," Anthony declared with surprising frankness. "I know the man better than he knows himself - I believe he saw Lord Dewhurst with his own eyes, otherwise he's unlikely to have told you about him; not necessarily in the context he wrote - if /that/ were true, he wouldn't have expressed it so starkly."
Kennedy smiled a little. He had an odd sort of trust in Anthony, and believed he wouldn't have given such comfort if there was not some hope of it being true. It emboldened him. "I'd be a fool to think he was unhurt, whether Trevellian were fabricating the event or not," he offered, to demonstrate that he didn't allow his idealism to cloud his better judgement. "I know what it is to be a prisoner in France, where prison guards areallowed such liberties with their charges."
Neither Anthony nor Walker reacted with any surprise. "No wonder you are so eager to rescue him," was Anthony's only remark on the subject, and he changed it quickly. "We leave from Leith - the /Seawitch/ should be en route as we speak, so we have time to consider our plan," he continued.
"Cassillis was informed," Kennedy confirmed, in a murmur. Anthony would already know.
"Your cousin will probably trust you more readily than any stranger," the spy continued. "I think it would only be logical if he were your priority. You'll need to be prepared to move someone injured and unable to move himself; perhaps someone unco-operative, who is damaged enough to want to remain; even a man who has found he likes the life, if it turns out that he's well treated. You might also need to restrain a man so eager to escape, he'll bolt for the nearest open door and bring everything to ruin."
Kennedy nodded. "Perhaps we /can/ use the League, after all," he said, giving voice to his thoughts. "Didn't they used to leave a parchment with a drawing of the Pimpernel? Maybe putting them in the path of Robespierre would force Bonaparte to leave off?"
"Hmmm...worth considering," Anthony mused, but made no other comment.
At least the opportunity to visit his cousin Cassillis was
one good thing about the current mission. There was to be something
of a gathering, to which the officer's of /Seawitch/ would be
invited via his own connection, but to establish social links
between Halliwell and Cassillis would help disguise the less public
links that had already been formed, and this was as good an opportunity
as any. Kennedy looked forward to introducing his friends to his
relation, and vice versa. Even Hornblower caused him no anxiety;
he was impeccably behaved and not the kind of man to be rude to
Cassillis merely because he was Kennedy's cousin.
He was a little concerned about Anthony, however, since he couldn't think how Cpt. Pellew would respond to his new 'valet'. He should pen his commanding officer a short note disclaiming any kind of responsibility. Above all, however, he was flattered by the support Pellew had given to the Admiral's orders. Blockade duty was not the most popular, although if the French were becoming more daring in their attempts to leave Brest, there was chance of prize money, but it neatly afforded Kennedy, Anthony and Walker the opportunity to see what could be done for Dewhurst. Cpt. Pellew offered his encouragement unreservedly, and Kennedy was touched by the unselfish gesture.
"Captain Pellew, sir; I am pleased to present my cousin, Lord Cassillis," Kennedy introduced, eyes sparkling and obviously taking genuine pleasure in making the two men known to each other.
"Honoured, sir." Cassillis offered his hand, which Pellew took. He was surprised by how like the two men appeared, and had already heard that Kennedy bore an even greater resemblance to his other aristocratic cousin, Dewhurst. They must appear as twins.
In Jamaica, Kennedy had said that he and the Earl looked 'something alike', but the similitude was more than that. It was not quite striking since one did not have to look twice to distinguish them, but they obviously came from the same stock. Cassillis was darker-haired, with finer features, a little taller, but had something of a stoop, and was thinner, with the beginnings of his wasting illness starting to show.
Likewise, my Lord," Pellew returned, with a smile. Kennedy's accent and tone had been perfect, and he couldn't resist teasing the man in a situation where he couldn't easily respond. No wonder Bush and the midshipmen frequently did so; Kennedy was too easy to tease. "You must tell me whether your cousin can imitate me as well as he does yourself."
"Wouldn't presume to betray him, sir," Cassillis answered, with a casual ease that Kennedy often lacked when addressing him. "Or at least, not without seeing what I my silence was worth, first."
Kennedy smiled tightly, acknowledging the hit, and bowed mockingly to the head of his family. Clearly he didn't suffer from any awkwardness at social engagements.
"I have guests enough for quite a gathering, I think," the Earl continued, accepting Pellew's arm. Physically weak, he could stand or walk for longer if he had some support, and he did not like to keep relying on his cane. It was not unusual to see Cassillis on a man's arm while in conversation with him, and most of his friends developed the habit of offering it. Halliwell, considered Pellew, thought of everything; down to the last courtesy, and it was a convenient way for a person who wished to speak to the Earl to appropriate him. They moved away.
"I took the liberty of inviting some of Lord Dewhurst's former friends; the ones he had accompanied to Paris. I hoped that Archie - Lt. Kennedy - might gather some useful information from them. Do you know of how Dewhurst came to be in his predicament?"
"Admiral Halliwell passed on some details, my Lord," Pellew confirmed, keeping to Cassillis' slow pace around the room.
"Then I needn't bore you with the tale. II am a little worried about how my cousin is going to react. I haven't had the opportunity to inform him, yet, but I do worry that he'll be upset; he blames them for what happened. He and Dewhurst were as close as any of the Kennedy clan were allowed to be, you see."
"I can say that he will conduct himself as an officer of His Majesty's Navy," Pellew replied with confidence. He was quite sure that Kennedy would excuse himself if he was too disturbed by the presence of Dewhurst's associates to continue. He didn't pretend that the third Lieutenant didn't have his weaknesses, but he had also seen for himself how he covered them up.
"I'm rather afraid he will conduct himself as a 'Kennedy', sir," Cassillis disagreed, not disrespectfully, but firmly. "Archie has taken this matter very personally. Affected by his own misfortunes, no doubt; but I think I should be concerned for Sir Percy and Sir Andrew."
"Fortunately I left all my canons on my ship, Lord Cassillis," Pellew assured, with a smile. "And I don't believe that the uniform could quite conceal a pistol."
"Well, the castle could withstand a canon blast, at least, but I wouldn't like to test the resilience of my guests!" Cassillis answered, wryly. "If he ever makes Post, then pray god I never cross him! Culzean is too handy a target from the sea."
Pellew had a sudden, unbidden image of Castle Culzean lying in a heap at the top of the cliff, and Kennedy on the quarterdeck of /Seawitch/, an epaulette on his shoulder, smiling and dusting his hands while a great gun sat smoking beside him. He further tormented himself by picturing a white flag emerging from the rubble, and waving quietly. The warm, good humour of the place was obviously affecting him, but it was a sketch he might present to the Earl should the appropriate opportunity arise.
"However," Cassillis continued. "I would not underestimate the damage he might do to a person should the wrong thing be said."
_CHAPTER FOUR: THE WRONG THING IS SAID_
That Lord Cassillis had warned himself and Ffoulkes that his
cousin bore 'more than a passing resemblance' to Tony Dewhurst
had in no way prepared them for the reality of the situation.
Cassillis, used to the similarity, was quite nonchalant about
it, but Blakeney felt as though he had been kicked in the stomach
upon seeing the Lieutenant. Ffoulkes was wearing an expression
of stunned neutrality, but Blakeney knew him well enough to see
for himself the suffering behind his blue eyes.
All that could inform the world at large that this was not, in fact, the youngest Dewhurst, was the Naval dress uniform, the long, red-gold hair tied neatly back with a dark ribbon and the flow of chatter Lt. Kennedy was capable of.
Dewhurst had been a quiet man, both by nature, and because of his stutter, which he had to pretend he was not embarrassed about. His way of being part of Blakeney's coterie was to stand very close to the centre of events, laugh a lot, drink more than he ought, sing whenever he had the chance (as he lost his stutter in the doing), and join in every activity with such enthusiasm that few ever noticed that he rarely actually spoke.
Kennedy suffered no such impediment, however. He had obviously begun the social evening in a group with the other Royal Navy officers, but they had spread out somewhat as others were introduced. Admiral Halliwell's voice was heard more than his diminutive stature was seen - god, the man was shorter than Dewhurst! - but he was generally the focus of amused attention. Pellew was not a man for frivolity, and he had found some more serious-minded of Cassillis' guests, who could offer some substance to their conversation. Blakeney regretted that he would never be invited to join that group's discussion; not one of them would be accused of pandering to the whims of a dandy. The Captain was accompanied by a tall, dark-haired man who had a measure of elegance but an awkward stance. He spoke only when addressed, and was apparently happier to trail in Pellew's wake and listen to the talk, than join it.
Another Lieutenant, older by at least ten years, had remained with Kennedy. He was more at ease than Pellew's companion, but again, content to observe rather than join in. Blakeney caught the rough edge of his accent as he passed by. Not born a gentleman, then, and it pained him that the fop would be required to reject his company. A pity; Bush appeared a solid, reliable man, not possessed of a great imagination or wit, perhaps, but certainly not a man one need be embarrassed to be seen with.
Blakeney felt kicked once more as he heard Kennedy introduce him with pleasure as "my dear friend, Lieutenant Bush - second of /Seawitch/." The one compromise he had never been able to make with Dewhurst was that the latter would never slight a man, just because it was in keeping with Sir Percy's 'character'. Ffoulkes and Hastings had reluctantly followed his example, poor Weatherby and Danby, too, but young, headstrong Dewhurst flat refused.
/"I don't have many friends, Percy - I won't slight those I have because they've no title to their name or their money came from trade."/
No - Dewhurst's overbearing father and over-protective mother had never allowed him to associate as far and wide as he wished, so any real friend he could make he had valued. All the Kennedy's were a sociable breed, and Dewhurst favoured the Kennedy influence of his birth, despite his name. A circle of friends that the young man had been able to respect was less likely while following Blakeney (besides those within the League itself, of course), as he had unfortunately had to entertain those of good blood, in keeping with his foolish act. Dewhurst had also quarrelled often with his older brothers who saw fit to try and separate him from those he did meet while 'sashaying around the country with his damn fool associates'.
Younger than the rest of the League, Dewhurst had been more lonely than his temperament readily allowed for, and it accounted for much of the closeness he and Sir Andrew enjoyed. Ffoulkes also found it difficult to behave as an over-bred twit as often as he was required to, and the resulting problems each suffered had created a firm friendship between them.
Blakeney worried about the frequent glances Ffoulkes threw in Kennedy's direction. Certainly the man was just too like Dewhurst - the difference negligible when one considered that a dozen years had gone by, and so much might have made Dewhurst even more like the Lieutenant. For a moment, Blakeney couldn't tell whether he hoped his young friend were alive, despite what hurts he must have suffered, or dead and beyond harm.
Presently he ended up at one of the whist tables that Cassillis had set up across one end of the room. At least he could play cards with all of his skill and not betray his fop masquerade; he was pleased to be put at a table with Pellew and his first officer, Commander Hornblower, and they were able to have a damn fine match. Hornblower lost much of his awkwardness in the game, and on noticing that his 'best uniform' had already seen many years service, Blakeney thought it better to lose more to the man than he won from him. Oh, how he would like to play for real against him! Not for money, just the challenge.
"Sink meh! But I'm near fleeced, sir. Another rubber?"
It was agreed, and losing or not, Blakeney began to enjoy himself; he allowed himself to show more intelligence than he really ought, but just couldn't resist, and put on enough airs and graces to compensate (he hoped). At least the fop was allowed to have some skill at cards.
Kennedy and Ffoulkes were as close to each other as they had been since the gathering began. Ffoulkes had wanted an introduction to Dewhurst's cousin upon finding that this was the man whose connections lead to their intelligence, but Blakeney and Cassillis had dissuaded him from any such attempt. The Earl had warned them that Kennedy was not likely to greet them warmly, but promised to speak with him on their behalf the next day. Perhaps their presence at the gathering would soften him a little; get him used to their involvement with Dewhurst's demise.
Blakeney had already noticed Kennedy stiffen slightly whenever his or Ffoulkes' names were mentioned, and he wished Sir Andrew would join them in the game; he was a good enough player himself, and it may make it easier and less obvious for Kennedy to avoid them, as he was currently doing. Kennedy, presumably, was not much of a card player himself, or he could have steered clear by claiming a place at another table.
However, the older Lieutenant had obviously seen the dangerous proximity, and began a lively reiteration of his friend's recent exploits and their various adventures at sea. It was a discussion well suited to most of their current companions, and those who were not interested were free to wonder away. It also kept Kennedy distracted, since some matters of seamanship required explanation, and Bush called upon him for just that. They had even had the servants scare up an old brass canon for the purposes of description, and seemed to be enjoying themselves as they described how they had once covered the entrance to an entire bay with a single gun from some cliff-top or other.
One of the group accosted Andrew close to Blakeney and he hid a smile in his cards at his friend's plight. Mr. Carter was not a vicious or malicious youth, but he was rather unguarded and very careless. He had only one sponsor in society - an elderly aunt who was not present at this social evening, which was intended for the male populace, and he was making the very common mistake of trying too hard to ingratiate himself with his peers.
"I keep hearing how alike Lt. Kennedy is to his cousin, the Earl - and moreso to his late cousin. I believe you knew the latter, Sir Andrew. Are they as similar as everyone says?"
Mr. Carter could not have chosen a worse way to begin a discussion. His high voice had carried to Kennedy, who suddenly adopted a frozen pose by the gun carriage, and Ffoulkes replied quietly, not seeing Kennedy's reaction. Blakeney pretended to regard his cards, and silently thanked god that there was no ordnance to go with the canon.
"They are extremely alike," he said. "Very much."
"Oh," Carter exclaimed, discouraged by this less than lively response. He immediately tried to make some reparation for any inadvertent damage he had done to Ffoulkes, but being young and unpracticed, he only succeeded in making his faux pas worse. "I am sorry - I did not think. You must have been close to Lord Dewhurst. I did not mean to offend you, sir."
"You have not offended me, Mr. Carter," Ffoulkes responded, in his gentle way. "But I was indeed close to Lord Dewhurst, and I had the misfortune to be with him in Paris."
"I- I see, Sir Andrew."
Blakeney sighed in relief, and turned his attention back to his play. Bush was manoeuvring Kennedy away from the other group a little by having him explain some finer points of breeching ropes and they had once again become quite animated in their descriptions.
"I suppose, then, that it is difficult for you to speak with Lt. Kennedy," Carter tried. Oh for the love of god, could the boy not see that he shouldn't continue on this road? If he had nothing else to say, then he should either shut up, or make some reference to the weather and politely enquire whether Ffoulkes would remain at Culzean.
"I have not had the pleasure of making his acquaintance," Ffoulkes responded, patiently, and Blakeney decided, with regret, that he should abandon the game and rescue his friend once this hand had played. "Our paths have never crossed."
"Oh - he is very charming!" Carter persisted, almost desperately. "I have met him this evening, and I can make the introductionLt. Kennedy!"
No choreographer could have orchestrated such an event. Carter's voice had indeed attracted the attention of the officer, and Ffoulkes had tried to follow Carter to prevent him from attempting the introduction. However, as Kennedy turned smartly, he saw Ffoulkes, and for him to deviate from his course now would be the most appalling snub. So, blithely unaware of the disaster he was inviting, Mr. Carter presented Sir Andrew to Lt. Kennedy as "Your cousin's very close friend."
Impeccable social manners compelled Ffoulkes to offer his hand to the shocked Lieutenant with some unheard greeting, and whatever he had said compelled Kennedy to respond with his Scottish temper and his fist landed squarely across Ffoulkes' face.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes was tall and well-built; an active life had bestowed on him a healthy and well-maintained physique, but Kennedy's sudden, smart attack left him on the floor with his hands over his face. Carter had backed right away in shock, and without thinking of ought but his friend, Blakeney rushed towards the incident to help. Kennedy had also moved towards Ffoulkes, presumably to finish inflicting whatever damage he had begun, but he paused when he saw Blakeney.
Although many had reason to despise Sir Percy, he had never been regarded with such venom before - not even by Chauvelin. This gentlemanly, dedicated servant of His Majesty, who had never met him nor spoken with him before, clearly hated him with every fibre of his being, and for a moment Blakeney thought his very life had been saved by the rapid response of Lt. Bush, who grabbed Kennedy's coat and forced him out of the room through the nearest door, which was held conveniently open by Lord Cassillis and smartly slammed shut behind them.
Carter, Bush, himself and Cassillis seemed to be the only actual witnesses to the incident that had left one of the guests sprawled on the floor. Others had turned as Ffoulkes fell, and he was presently being helped to regain his feet, blood streaming from his nose, and bruising making itself known by his eye. He was protesting that he was all right, but clearly people suspected what had happened. Luckily, Cassillis had more sense than to confirm their suspicions, and Carter seemed to realise that he should say nothing more (ever again, if Blakeney's fervent wishes would come true).
"What on earth did you say to him?" Cassillis asked, arranging a bowl of water for Ffoulkes to bathe his bloodied face in once they had retreated to the library. Despite a show of family solidarity, Blakeney knew too well that the resurrection of those ties between the Earl and Kennedy were recent, and they were not actually as well acquainted as the cousins were inclined to imply.
"Dammit, Cass, I can't think it was bad enough to warrant this. You'd be within your rights to challenge the man," Blakeney added, to Ffoulkes. He knew that Ffoulkes was unlikely to take up the suggestion, but he had lost a great deal of sympathy for Kennedy in the last ten minutes.
"Within your rights, but outside your mind," Cassillis retorted. "He's as fine a swordsman as either of you will ever meet, and reckoned one of the best shots in the Navy. Anyway - he was hurt when Dewhurst began acting for the League; I know he didn't know that was the cause of Tony's sudden stupidity, but I know Tony regretted having to push him away, especially as they were such friends."
Blakeney suspected that there was more Cassillis had omitted to tell them, but he was not in the mood to hear it.
"It was my own fault," Ffoulkes interrupted, shaking his head. "If he were to press the issue, he might have cause to challenge me!"
But until he heard Ffoulkes out, Blakeney found it difficult to agree.
"And certainly not what is expected of an officer!"
Kennedy opened his mouth to explain. "Shut up, Kennedy!"
the Admiral continued without allowing him even to make his agreement.
"In either case, drawing attention to yourself in such a
manner won't help your /career/, or /anybody/ else!"
The emphasis on the words made it clear to Kennedy that the admiral had meant both his Naval career and his career in espionage, and was referring to Dewhurst.
"If the man challenges you - which he'd be perfectly within his rights to do - you refuse! That's an order, y'hear! You bloody refuse!"
"Aye-aye, sir," Kennedy acknowledged, with no trace of resentment or impertinence.
Halliwell had become quite intimidating now that he chose to exert himself, and it was likely that nobody on the receiving end of his reprimand would ever describe him as 'small' again. In fact, as Kennedy looked down at him, to render his sincere obedience, it made Kennedy seem over-sized and awkward!
"And no excuses as to why you're refusing; you can damn well take the consequences! And I'm not about to have you shoot a man of his associations and influence!"
"Besides, you won't be much use to your cousin if he shoots you!" Pellew added. Anybody hearing the reprimand Kennedy was suffering might suppose that Cassillis would indeed be poorer for his loss. Bush was aware that Pellew really meant the unfortunate Dewhurst, but he couldn't tell what Kennedy might be thinking - he had closed himself off entirely, and if even Hornblower could sense what raged behind those calm blue eyes it would be a miracle.
"No, sir," Kennedy replied, meekly.
"Between you and me, Edward, I'm not worried for him losing," Halliwell muttered as he passed his former protégé on his circuit of the floor. "And if he chooses to horsewhip you, instead," he continued at Kennedy. "Then it's no less than you deserve and best of luck to him! You won't find the Admiralty protesting!"
"I can't imagine what he could have said to make you jeopardise your mission for the satisfaction of a single swing! And not even a good one, at that - he's suffered a bloodied nose and little worse!" And so Halliwell went on.
In the end, it was Bush who told the Admiral what had prompted the violent response.
Anthony, having been unable to attend Cassillis' gathering,
as he intended to contact the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
under another alias, was pleased at the chance to hear of the
incident from an actual witness. Carter was quite free with his
information; his tongue unguarded and a lingering vague guilt
requiring confession prompted him to tell this remarkably pleasant
stranger (who was the closest man to Kennedy in all the world,
of course) all he knew of the occurrence, although he had been
sensible enough to tell nobody else, since the Earl did not seem
to wish events to be confirmed. Anthony, however, was a professional!
"So it started when you introduced Sir AndrewFfoulkes, did you say?...to Lt. Kennedy."
"Yes. Mind you - I don't think the Lieutenant is entirely at fault, exactly, but I think perhaps Sir Andrew was thinking of other matters, and didn't realise what he had said."
"Oh? What do you mean?"
"Well," explained Carter awkwardly, "Sir Andrew offered his hand and said 'I'm pleased to meet you, Lieutenant Dewhurst.' "
_CHAPTER FIVE: IN THE KINGDOM OF ROBESPIERRE_
a/n - Kennedy, Anthony and Walker spend much of this chapter speaking French, however it wouldn't make for very smooth reading if I tried to render it as such (and my French isn't strong enough, anyway) so it's in English. Think " 'Allo 'Allo".
For the purposes of getting ashore, the Captain's 'valet' had
joined the boat crew. In the dark, even Kennedy could not quite
pick him out, but the men had been given their orders before they
left and that one would be accompanying him and the 'Midshipman'.
Depending on how matters went, Kennedy might have to report the
seaman deserted and the Midshipman dead, if Anthony and Walker
had to stay behind. If he needed to remain, then Walker would
report to Hornblower that he had ordered them back, and did not
say where he was going.
The journey to the shore was tense, however, and the silence between himself and Hornblower made for an uncomfortable atmosphere, which only made the chilly night seem even colder. Why couldn't Bush have come with them instead? But this was not the first time Pellew had ordered Hornblower to boat duties when it was a situation more appropriate for the Second Lieutenant. Why? Because Bush couldn't swim and Pellew was one of the more conscientious captains of the Royal Navy.
"Good luck, sir," Matthews hissed as he disembarked and Styles muttered an echo.
Kennedy looked back at them for a moment. "Thank you," he said softly. It seemed useless to ask what they knew. Even Hornblower didn't know the full story, except that Anthony and Walker were not who they were pretending to be, and the orders were simply to put them ashore and wait as long as they dared. The boat would have to leave before dawn, with or without the shore party and in such a case, Kennedy, Anthony and Walker would have to make their own way out of France by whatever means they might.
Kennedy tried not to be hurt that Hornblower didn't even wish him luck, or tell him to be careful.
The streets were quiet and Anthony led them - Robespierre's estates were located within the village itself, unlike Trevellian's castle which dominated the tiny rural holdings over which it presided. Kennedy and Walker waited by the garden wall while Anthony kept an eye out for Robespierre's departure.
"He's gone," Anthony reported quickly as he returned. They were speaking French now. At least, if police authorities caught them breaking into Robespierre's property, they might consider them common criminals, which may give them opportunities to escape. All hope of such would vanish, however, if they were heard speaking English - they would be guillotined like the spies they were.
The wall was easy enough for three fit men to clamber up, although it was going to be more difficult to climb from the other side, Kennedy thought. And, naturally, there were the dogs: two large creatures stood snarling and salivating at them.
"Make yourself useful, then," Anthony said, unsympathetically, and shoved Walker off the wall.
Alarmed, Kennedy made to grab for him before the dogs could tear him to pieces, but was nowhere near fast enough. He turned accusingly to Anthony, who kept a grip on him to stop him from jumping down himself, and the man grinned at him, and pointed.
The two monsters played around Walker like puppies - tails wagging and ears pricked up happily. Walker himself was cheerfully letting them bite and worry at one arm, while he fussed and stroked them with the other.
"He has a real way with animals," Anthony said, watching the spectacle fondly. "Helped, of course, by padding and sleeping powder, but - aw, look; that one's trying to rip his arm off! Aren't they adorable?"
Indeed, a bundle of rags was becoming detached from Walker's sleeve, although plenty remained intact, and leaking from it was a white powder, which might have been flour. The dogs continued to war over the rags, accepting Walker's petting enthusiastically. Their movements became less ferocious within a couple of minutes, and their tails began to droop until both were contentedly curled up, sleeping.
Walker smiled up at his fellows benignly, less than neat, having been rolled through the flower beds. "Let's go find your cousin," Anthony suggested, and patted Kennedy on the back so hard that he found himself toppling off the wall. A good thing he had been prepared to jump, anyway.
They sprinted across the wide lawn. Robespierre's taste was austere and the house was quite far from the dwellings of the local peasantry if one discounted the high wall. The only statuary, bushes, flowers or trees to be found were against the wall, and the lawn itself had no relief. In fact, besides the dogs, if one chose not to land on the holly or in the roses, the place was not so difficult to get into, and the name Robespierre probably still inspired enough fear to keep people at a distance. However, from what he knew of Robespierre, Kennedy suspected that it would suit him to have people able to get in, then unable to get out
It was too cold for any of the windows to have been left conveniently open, but Walker was already working on the servant's entrance as he and Anthony readied their weapons. He hoped the servants were quartered elsewhere, as he didn't relish the idea of murdering those unfortunate enough to be in Robespierre's employ. Then he thought of Dewhurst again, and found that he didn't care quite so much about any servants as he thought he should.
Fortunately, the kitchens were dark and deserted. The three took their time moving around so they didn't knock anything over or make a noise. "Walker and I will find the study and snoop around. You go and find your cousin. Remember that he-"
"Yes, yes," Kennedy hissed. "I recall - he may not wish to leave; he may not be as I remember him. Stop fussing, Anthony!"
Irritatingly, Anthony simply bestowed a patronising ruffling of his hair on him before he and Walker vanished into the shadows. Could nothing provoke an angry or contrite reaction from the man at all?
/It's good to know I'm not the perfect spy,/ Kennedy thought.
The youngest son of the Duke of Exeter, Lord Tony Dewhurst
paced around his little room. In the house, he was only allowed
to wear shirt and trousers; no jacket, no shoes and so no place
to conceal a weapon, and it was cold. There was the blanket which
he could wrap himself up in, but Dewhurst thought it might get
colder tonight, so for now he would pace to keep himself warm,
and take shelter in the blanket to sleep.
He thought about escape, as he often did. The door wasn't locked; he knew where all the keys to the rooms in the houses, and outside doors wereif he could just outrun the dogs, he might even be able to scale the wall with the help of the low-branched willow tree. Then to Paris. He would have to walk, but the hardship would be no new experience; and then to The Tailor, or to The Forger - Percy and Andrew would then come and take him back to England. It would be easy.
But he didn't do it.
He wasn't allowed to go out of the house unless Robespierre himself was accompanying him, except for two hours each day, which he could spend in the gardens, and Robespierre's servant supervised him. The very thought of leaving alone sent spasms of fear through him which were nearly enough to send him whimpering to the floor. He knew it was unreasonable; that his mind was not entirely his own, but he simply couldn't break the Rules, no matter how he tried; no matter how many times his hand reached for the door-knobhe knew if he could just gather the strength of will to turn it, he would be all right. But he couldn't - he was too weak.
But he kept thinking about his plan, because one day, he might get his chance.
Robespierre had beaten, tortured and pounded the Rules governing Dewhurst's behaviour into him. The directions were reinforced very strictly in the beginning; an unending process because while he knew the Rules existed, he didn't know what they were, and would find out only by being punished for breaking them. His good behaviour was reinforced by such things as food, and water that wasn't stale or rank in those early days. But it had taken a long time because he had been making his own set of rules to match those of Robespierre.
He had been Blakeney's man, once; he liked to think that he had been Blakeney's at least as much as he was Robespierre's now, which meant that if he had Blakeney's seal, he could leave; because to have Blakeney's seal would be to have his permission, and since he was Blakeney's man, he wouldn't be breaking the Rules. He had only been able to test this exception once - a precious fragment of paper with the seal on it had been in his hands for a few minutes and with it, he had left his room.
He had been caught not five minutes later, of course, trying to leave the building, and the fear that they would discover how he had been able to leave drove him to destroy the precious Pimpernel seal before they saw it. Robespierre had him locked in his room for a week and the little window boarded up, beaten every morning, and given only a little bread and a glass of water in the evening. It had been so awful that he wanted to die; then Robespierre, as always, had attended him personally, being so gentle as his wounds were bathed; speaking softly and soothingly; combing his hair and ensuring he was clean - feeding him good food and watered wine. He had offered the required thanks for these services, and what made him even more afraid than the pain was that he genuinely felt the gratitude he offered from the very bottom of his heart.
However, for the moment, Dewhurst didn't have a seal; not yet, at any rate. He wasn't allowed any pen paper or ink; not even a book to read. Obviously he wasn't permitted a knife, and all the cutlery he used was checked after each meal to ensure he did not try to take any. But if he could just get a little scrap of paper, then he might draw one for himself - or even just if he had a picture of a Pimpernel, it should serve. He had even practiced folding one out of a dropped handkerchief, and dyed it red with blood - that had allowed him to open the door, but the handkerchief was missed, and sudden panic forced him to surrender it to the next servant who attended him. On that occasion, his diligence saved him from any punishment, and he was permitted half a cup of chocolate for his 'honesty'.
As yet, he still feared Robespierre too much to ask for a book. However, perhaps he might next Christmas. Robespierre often gave him some little treat; if he could ask to read a book and remove a leaf without being noticed, then he could fold it into a copy of the little flower, and if not, he could always draw a Pimpernel with his blood - his teeth, his nails or even a splinter from his rickety old bed would be enough to pierce the skin.
So he was not quite as much Robespierre's creature as the man might think. He obeyed the Rules as a matter of course, now; he was the man's pet and no longer even felt disgust at the fawning behaviour he had adopted towards him. Robespierre would take him out about once a month - for a drive and then a short walk, perhaps if the days were warm and fine. If not, a play or the opera - the ballet, even, which he loved. He seemed to live for these treats, and was pathetically grateful to his gaoler for them. He knew that gratitude was wrong as well, or at least the part of him who was still Tony Dewhurst of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel knew it was wrong: Robespierre's pet felt it was very right indeed.
But it was the only way to stay sane.
He had been Blakeney's before he was Robespierre's, he reminded himself yet again. Not that Blakeney would ever dream of having him tortured or beaten, or treated him like some sophisticated plaything. Blakeney would never offer him to some distinguished guest who may be inclined towards such things. If he could just think of himself as Blakeney's man, and remember that his loyalty to the League had come long before his pseudo-devotion to Robespierre. It had taken Robespierre ever such a long time to get to the point when not even a locked door was necessary to hold him prisoner, and he didn't know how long it was - all track of time had been lost, and in those early times (however long that was), he didn't even know how many Christmasses may have come and gone; there could have been five - there could have been three - eight? - fourteen? - twenty?
At least none of his obedience or behavioural directives meant betraying the League since obeying the Rules didn't constitute treachery. And it was so much easier now; he was no longer beaten - there were no longer guards and there was nothing to endure except to greet Robespierre with a smile and gratitude for his keeping, and look forward to going out, and dreading those occasions on which Robespierre was away from home.
Robespierre had gone out for the whole night; he would be back tomorrow.
Dewhurst didn't like to think much beyond tomorrow; he didn't like to think of the future, but he did not weep any longer, unless he happened to think too far ahead, and considered growing old here. He had only a tiny mirror for shaving, and he examined his hair for some awful strands of grey each day, which would betray that he had spent too many years in this pampered hell.
The door to his room opening startled him. He stared at the muzzle of a pistol and froze in terror while he waited for the pistol's owner to reveal himself. Then, shabbily dressed, in dark clothing, Dewhurst wondered whether this was some trick and he was going to be replaced by this man who looked so much like him.
"Tony? Tony - thank god!" the figure said, making safe the gun and pushing it into his belt.
Tony backed away as the other man approached, but the Rules prevented him from making a break for it. Robespierre was ever so angry if he resisted anyone or anything too much for their liking, but the other man took his arm gently. In the last however-many years, only Robespierre had touched him without violence: nobody elsenobody else for so very, very long
"Tony - it's me. It's Archie; your cousin, remember?"
"Archie?" he whispered. (He must never raise his voice either; that was a very important Rule).
"Yes. Yes." The man smiled. "I've come to take you home."
He was being led towards the door, but he couldn't do it and began to pull away from his cousin, shaking his head in denial. Maybe he was mad, at last; maybe he had finally been broken and this was some hallucination come to test him.
"I'm n-n-n-n-not allowed to leave," he managed.
Kennedy didn't force him, or try to drag him, but looked at him carefully, instead. He still held onto Tony's arm, and would not allow him to look away. "You're with me, now, Tony," he said, gently. "You're with me, and we're going to leave together. I promise you; I won't let anything bad happen to you if you come with me. But we have to go, /now/."
"Can only g-g-g-g-go with Robespierreo-or the Pimpernel," Tony explained, knowing all the time that he sounded insane. However, he felt a burning need to make Kennedy understand, and while that was overriding all other considerations, it did not override the Rules. The secret of the seal had to be kept a secret, the identity of the Pimpernel could not be revealed (he couldn't even explain where that Rule had emerged from - and if he could, it would only serve as evidence of his madness).
"Well - I thought of leaving this behind. If Robespierre /thinks/ you were taken away by the Pimpernel, then he wouldn't be angry with you, would he?"
And there it was.
The precious seal.
The drawing of the Pimpernel, and by Percy's own hand by the look of it.
With a shaking hand and amazed at his own daring, Lord Tony Dewhurst carefully took the little drawing from his cousin, and Kennedy yielded it to him without argument or protest. He turned towards the door - it was still standing open - and he pressed the paper against his chest, feeling his heart thumping wildly. He moved forwards, and kept going. Kennedy was behind him, probably wondering what new insanity had come to this madman, but for the moment, Tony didn't care.
"We'll meet my friends, and then we'll leave," Kennedy told him, quietly shutting the door. "Are these your shoes?"
Tony nodded. "N-n-n-n-not allowed in the house!" he objected.
"All right. You can put them on outside. Is that allowed?"
Dewhurst nodded again. He was still clutching the seal. Was he dreaming? No - if this were a dream, it would be Blakeney and Sir Andrew; it always was in his dreams. Of course, he was fond of cousin Archie; he had always been so, but with working for the League and Kennedy, recently orphaned, in the Navy, he had known that so long as the Revolution lasted, he couldn't maintain their close relationship. Tony had thought one day to explain; when it was all safely over, and he could mend the broken links with his family once again. Oh, his father had been so angry with his foppish ways and forming part of Percy's 'little coterie'.
However, here was Kennedy! Was he still in the Navy? His last letter had been very optimistic - a posting to another frigate, away from the hell his first assignment had proved. On his new ship, he had made a particular friend; or had they been posted together from the first? Tony couldn't recall the details, but he remembered that the new career seemed to be going well for Kennedy. This was not the time to ask, though. At least Kennedy was not trying to make him break the Rules or force him to give up the behaviours which he knew must make him seem crazy.
Two more men came from- oh, god! - Robespierre's study! One turned to manipulate a wire caught in the lock. It clicked shut, ominously loudly, and for a moment Tony wondered whether it was Percy and Andrew. But the two men before him were strangers and with the familiar dread of a face never seen before, he moved closer to his cousin's shelter.
"This is my cousin," Kennedy told them, in French.
"Oh - excellent. We're delighted to meet you, Lord Dewhurst - and pleased to find you reasonably well." The man smiled.
Tony didn't answer. He needed permission to speak to a stranger, and only Kennedy was not a stranger, here. They were going to think he was insane; they would persuade his cousin that he was crazy - and weak - and should be left here. He clung to Kennedy's arm and stared at them in fear.
"We've done enough to cast a few flies in the ointment. We should leave."
More Frenchwhy were they speaking French? Surely the countries hadn't reconciled their differences? French and British enmity went back at least to Agincourt. Desperate not to be left behind, or have one of these men suggest it, he tugged on Kennedy's arm to surrender his only useful contribution to an escape, and his cousin turned to him, speaking gently. "What's the matter, Tony?"
"Dogs," he stated. "Th-th-th-th-they won't let us leave. But-" he reduced his voice to a whisper. "They won't hurt me."
"We drugged the dogs, Tony - when we came in," Kennedy assured him, patting one of his clinging hands.
"We just have to worry about the wall, and how we get over it," the man said, with a grin. Perhaps they were all rather mad - it didn't seem to him that any obstacle to their escape was a reason to smile.
"For god's sake, Anthony, are you-" Kennedy began irritably, then made a frustrated noise and turned to his cousin, once again speaking softly, and calmly. "Do you know of any way over that wall from the inside?" It was only then that Tony realised Kennedy was doing everything within his power not to frighten him, or object to the things he needed to do, however strange they must seem to a man in full possession of his wits. How did Kennedy know to be so? He pulled his cousin nearer, to speak into his ear.
"Willow tree," he whispered. "G-g-g-g-g-grows near the wall. It's branches are l-l-low."
On the other hand, Kennedy had always been patient with his stutter, and even in this urgent situation was allowing him to get the words out in his own time. In fact, Tony reflected, as they waited for him to put his shoes on, part of him was grateful for the impediment. If he became too angry, frustrated or upset, or if he simply tried to force the words out too quickly, he would never get a sound past his lips. During his early imprisonment, he wondered how much his inability to talk was to thank for his not turning traitor.
He was exhausted by the time they reached the tree. The group had kept to his slow pace, but now scarcely looked as though they had made any exertion at all. How long had it been, wondered Dewhurst, since he had been allowed to run? The first time he had run, towards the house to shelter from a downpour, he was used to the Rules and obeyed new directives without question. Robespierre had only needed to tell him he must never run before Tony obliged him. On that occasion, there was not even cause for a beating; no pause before he offered his apology, and his cheeks had burned with shame for causing Robespierre to speak harshly to him before he felt the shame of his obedience. How weak had he become? And what was Kennedy going to say when he discovered what a pathetic creature he was?
The man called Anthony was up the tree and over the wall rapidly, with practised ease, and Kennedy stayed with him, helping him at each stage. Anthony reached for him as he dropped, and he cringed against the wall, landing awkwardly in a heap at the bottom; the man tried to help him up, and Dewhurst had to stuff his shirt-sleeve into his mouth to stop himself from screaming. Slowly, Anthony raised his hands and took a deliberate pace back from him, saying merely, "I'm sorry, my Lord," with all sincerity.
Then Kennedy had jumped down, and the panic began to dissipate. He looked accusingly at Anthony, then concerned at Tony whose sleeve was still in his mouth, and then aside, covering some emotion that Dewhurst wasn't quick enough to identify. From that point on, until they got to the boat, only Kennedy touched him.
Their pace saw him utterly done in by the end of the journey. His two hours of time in the garden was spent walking at a slow stroll, as he was not allowed to proceed any faster. He was freezing cold, and wet, and he could barely draw enough breath to speak. He concentrated solely on keeping up, and trying not to wince when he stumbled and fell and they were all forced to stop while Kennedy helped him up. He was too exhausted, even, to wonder how he was going to cope being cramped into the little boat full of seaman and an officer.
The slow dread crept up on him as he realised they were already staring; before he even had the chance to prove himself a pathetic madman. They weren't disguising their attention, and he was glad to be too weary to share his fears with Kennedy. After all, once he was in the boat, it would be too late.
"Here," Kennedy shrugged off his jacket, and put it across his shoulders, helping him into it.
"W-w-w-w-w-w" He wanted to ask whether Kennedy would be warm enough, but these strangers were choking his efforts, and he couldn't get past that hateful stutter. Kennedy was even fastening it properly for him.
"I won't let you fall," he promised, taking Tony's hesitation to be caused by the awkward embarkation.
" 'Ere, sir - let me 'elp," came a voice from the boat, and a large man stood up. He was absolutely steady as he lifted Tony lightly into the vessel, and easily as tall as Percy.
"Thank you, Styles," Kennedy said with a smile. "It'll be all right, Tony - I promise."
Beyond the smile, there was a look in his cousin's eyes that frightened him, even more than the seaman who was still holding onto him, and he clasped Kennedy's arm with all this strength. He couldn't even try to speak.
"I've got you, sir - yer all righ'," the seaman told him
"Tony, please let me go," Kennedy advised quietly.
His only response could be to shake his head and his cousin frowned, for the first time looking even mildly irritated with him. Then his face hardened in resolve and he began to prise Tony's fingers from his arm, one by one. Styles held his arm away as soon as Kennedy was free, and he couldn't smother the terrified sob; it was as though part of him had been severed, suddenly. Then somebody - an old man - was touching him, too, and it petrified him so much that he was manoeuvred without a fight to sit next to the officer, who looked at him with the same sort of interest as his crew.
"Yer twin, sir?" the old man was saying to Kennedy, with a smile in his voice.
"My cousin, Matthews. We found him unwell and unable to get home," his cousin answered from the dockside. Tony looked up; he was removing his waistcoat and neckcloth, handing them to Styles. Why was he doing that? Why wasn't he getting into the boat?
"Sir?" asked Anthony, regarding Kennedy oddly. It was strange; Tony had thought he was the one in charge, but he addressed Kennedy as he should a superior.
"I'm going back," Kennedy announced, flatly, and handed his sword to Styles, who took it with some reluctance. He had quickly divested himself of everything that could possibly distinguish him as a British man; Tony had not forgotten everything he had learned in the League, it seemed. Anthony was fidgeting.
"Mr Walker - you'll take my report back to Captain Pellew, if you please," Kennedy said, giving orders with the ease of a man confident with his authority. "Mr Anthony - you'll remain with me."
The old Tony, Lord Dewhurst, would have smiled to hear that authority, Robespierre's pet reflected.
_CHAPTER SIX: NOT THE SAME AS SPYING_
A/N - Guess what! When I started this, I had only seen a friend's video copy of the 'Scarlet Pimpernel', which he had done from the TV, and it had cut some important stuff. We never actually saw Lord Dewhurst get his brains blown over the street; we only saw Chauvelin fire. Acquiring the DVD, I discovered they were less generous with their scissors and splicers, and I don't see how anyone could have survived *that* somewhat extended scene. However, not wanting to waste my effort so far, and not wanting to leave the story unfinished for anybody who might be reading this, I am going to persist. I may submit an edited version of previous chapters for the archive, or re-post if I can come up with anything convincing to explain Tony's survival.
Sorry for any inconvenience(particularly to Lord Dewhurst)
Dewhurst's behaviour had worried Kennedy from the moment he
saw him. He watched as Matthews offered him a blanket and Tony
just stared up at him. Hornblower reached up to take it and wrapped
it carefully around the ex-prisoner and his cousin flinched from
the Commander's touch. Kennedy saw a look of pain move across
Hornblower's face; he had seen that look before - indeed, he had
been on the receiving end of it in El Ferrol, unable to bear the
contact even of a beloved friend. However, it also assured him
that Tony was going to be in good hands.
But what it was to be a prisoner in France.
"Mr Hornblower - may I leave my cousin in your care?" he asked, politely.
"Certainly, Mr Kennedy," came the reply, in the especially civil way Hornblower had taken to addressing him, these days.
"Excuse me, sir, but if we're leaving at dawn - 'ow are you going to get back to the /'Witch/?"
"I'll make my own way, Matthews. Indeed, I shan't be returning before you must depart. In fact - you may as well head out now."
He turned away, quickly, before he had the opportunity to change his mind. It was difficult to look at Dewhurst, shivering with cold and terror in the sternsheets. Once they had moved out of sight of the boat, Anthony took his arm, a grave expression on his face.
"You're going to kill Robespierre." It was a statement, not a question or a concern, but a brief confirmation of his intent. The simple establishment of a fact.
"Indeed I am," he returned, anyway.
"Don't start, Anthony! You saw my cousin! What he's become!" Kennedy snapped. Then he spoke more softly. "All the things I've seen in him are the things I learned about aboard /Swiftsure/ - controlling a man's mind and behaviour; breaking his will, his independence - god, his very soul. Turning him into a mere pet. If Robespierre can do such a thing to one man, what may he do to a nation? Even if we're talking about France - how long before he controls Bonaparte and while all attention is turned his way, nobody pays heed to the quiet figure of Robespierre behind him. Robespierre, the bloody Incorruptible, managing to corrupt others just fine!"
Anthony sighed. "You've been taught this trade too well," he said. He sounded and looked as though he genuinely regretted the matter, but Kennedy also knew that it took a good actor to be a spy. He couldn't even trust what he saw from this man.
"It needs to be done, Anthony. Deny that - give me a reason why Robespierre deserves to draw breath, and I'll listen."
"Forget that," the spy said, stopping abruptly and turning Kennedy to face him. He carefully clasped the Lieutenant's upper arms, requiring all his attention. "It's not Robespierre I'm thinking of, Kennedy - it's /you/! Assassination is /not/ espionage. It isn't the same thing, Kennedy, not at all. An ordinary man might be murdered, and only kings and politicians are assassinated, but it's a just cleaner word for the same filthy deed."
"I've killed before," Kennedy told him. "I killed my first man at sixteen years old, Anthony, and I've been doing it ever since. With canon, pistol, sworda dagger. I've broken necks and heads, set a ship ablaze and drowned men. This time it's a knife; I see no difference."
"There's a big one!" Anthony hissed. Kennedy had never seen him so serious for so long - or apparently this concerned. "All those men were trying to kill you; or your friends and comrades. That was battle; this is just plain murder - premeditated, deliberate killing of a specific man for a specific reason and it's a world away from inflicting death in battle." He paused, apparently gathering himself. "I won't stop you, Kennedy; god knows, the world is a better place without Robespierre. But take it from someone who knows the consequences and for god's sake, be certain! Be certain!"
Kennedy considered, briefly. He understood Anthony's meaning all too well; he comprehended the difference that Anthony was trying to define, but what he could not foretell was whether the reality of it would affect him as it seemed to affect his companion when he was faced with the performance. Then he recalled Hornblower, reaching over to offer his cousin the warmth of a blanket, and Tony's terrified reaction.
"I'm certain," he said. "I have thought about what you're saying, and I understand it, but I think of Lord Dewhurst and my resolve is firm."
Anthony nodded, and swiftly changed the subject. "Monsieur Antoine has new contacts he must meet while in Paris. Possibly valuable contacts. I can meet you in two days, at the Safe-house on Rue d'Allemande."
Fortunately, the dogs were still in a state of drug-induced
doziness as Kennedy regained entry to the house, and not yet steady
enough on their paws to make chase beyond staggering a few steps
towards him with a canine whine. Sneaking back into Dewhurst's
secluded, little room was a simple matter now that he knew the
layout of the building, and the extent to which Dewhurst had been
controlled occurred to him as he realised that the room didn't
stink like a prison.
He was cold in only shirt and breeches; he had kicked his shoes off, but they were beneath the simple dressing-table, and had covered his legs with the blanket, arranging the material so that he wouldn't get tangled up in it should he need to move quickly. A disturbing situation, indeed, as the blanket was of fine, warm wool - expensive, and not the kind of luxury one generally squandered on a meaningless prisoner.
Kennedy's intention was to tell some servant that he was not well, but make it appear as though some other matter was the cause of his refusal to rise, and perhaps this 'disobedience' would lure Robespierre into the room when he returned from his business, to find out what sort of game his pet was playing.
Then he would strike; a slender poisoned knife thrust under the arm or between the ribs (if he could manage as much), anywhere else if not. He would leave Robespierre where he lay, closing the door, and would smile as though nothing were amiss at whoever he might pass on his way into the garden, confirming that Robespierre thought some fresh air would speed his revival. Then he would slowly stroll towards the willow, without moving fast enough to alarm anybody or the dogs. When he was within a few feet, he would veer quickly and be over the wall before either of the brutes had chance to catch him and then he could certainly shoot one, and stab the other with another poison-dressed blade should the dogs reach him.
He was confident that he could hide from pursuit. If he looked so like Dewhurst, they would have no cause to believe he was anybody else, and every reason to think he was as frail as his cousin; unable to run across the lawn without being without breath by the end of the short sprint. The trees would be his best option if he could get up one of them, and move through the foliage. It was one of his skills learned, but as yet untried in the field, but Kennedy was not concerned for his ability to evade capture.
Rue d'Allemande in Paris was approachable by nearly exclusively back-streets where he would be indistinguishable from any other Parisian peasantry.
The key to any good plan; simplicity and decisiveness if and when things went wrong, and he ran over and over it in his mind, making a few basic contingencies for the most likely miscalculations. Then he became aware that he was being watched. He wondered whether this was a manner in which Robespierre kept a leash on his 'pet'; ensuring Dewhurst knew he was being watched, but not knowing from where or why, or what was the correct behaviour to adopt. It began to bother him, but there was nothing he could do.
His thoughts returned to Dewhurst, since he was forced to be idle in his current situation except breathe deeply and evenly, as though he had fallen asleep. His cousin had looked up at Kennedy so pathetically, and quickly began to cling to him in the same fawning way he had to Robespierre. Perhaps it was his way of coping, caught between being Dewhurst and Robespierre's plaything; it had been easier for him to transfer that pseudo-loyalty from the Frenchman to Kennedy in order to function enough to escape, and Dewhurst had only enough influence over his own mind to impress upon himself that escape was a good thing.
He hoped Dewhurst was all right on the /Seawitch/. Kennedy could have absolute faith in Hornblower that he would get his cousin back to the ship safely - Hornblower wouldn't transfer whatever problem he had with Kennedy to Dewhurst. He could also trust Dr. Sebastian to do everything in his power to begin healing the poor man.
But he would be terrified; flung into a new situation without anybody to cling to - he had been required to physically remove Tony's grip from his arm as he lowered his cousin into the boat. Perhaps Kennedy did know that nobody aboard /Seawitch/ would dream of harming Dewhurst, but the problem was that Dewhurst didn't know that.
What would Pellew say on receiving his unexpected guest? He knew all about Dewhurst, of course Kennedy having acquainted him with the details of the situation, but that he send his cousin back to the /Seawitch/ alone had not been discussed at all.
His observer was opening the door, and creeping towards him. He was wearing only the thin shift - all that Dewhurst was allowed to wear indoors, according to Robespierre's instructions. Being in the Navy had given him at least this one advantage over other spies in that he could sense shifts of air necessary for ship-handling, and he had found that it worked on a smaller scale, too. If one was wearing thin and loose enough garments - perhaps just a shirt, one could sense an approach made silently or discretely by the movement of the air - especially if one were focused on the matter, and the air indoors was relatively still. The subtle shift was not until the last moment, but such detection could make the difference between a knife glancing off one's ribs, or being thrust through one's back.
So at the right moment, he twisted from the bed and back; it was Blakeney! And in a sudden rush of fury and hate, Kennedy reached forwards to try and strangle the man.
Some sense had Dewhurst rolling from the bed and away, just
before Andrew could lean over him and gently render him unconscious.
From behind it would have to be, then. As Dewhurst stood and stared
at Percy, arm raised as though to strike, Andrew got his own arms
around his slighter friend, pinning him and held the chloroform-soaked
handkerchief over his nose and mouth. Dewhurst struggled against
him; god, but imprisonment hadn't made him weak! Eventually, the
attempt at freeing himself grew more feeble, and Dewhurst went
limp in his arms. Something fell from the unconscious man's hand.
"I'm sorry, Tony," he apologised, impulsively. He didn't know whether he was apologising for drugging him now, or abandoning him on the street, or believing him deadthe list could go on. At least he was small (if heavier than Andrew recalled).
"Sink meh, but I was about t'be stabbed!" Percy declared, picking up a fine, sleek knife, which Dewhurst had been holding.
"We expected resistance; we expected that Robespierre" Andrew didn't finish the thought - the issue over mind control did not need to be reiterated here and now, and he distracted himself with lifting Tony; he was almost as unco-operative unconscious as he had been when he was awake. Once he had the man safe, he looked up at Percy - his short quote as 'the Fop' to indicate that he was all right belied, as a look of mutual distress passed between them. Andrew tried to forget his own guilt: what must Percy be feeling? The entire League had known that if they were captured or at risk that Percy himself would return for them. He always hadbut not for Tony; poor 'late' Tony had spent over ten years wondering why he didn't merit such rescue from one friend, and why another had left him so carelessly to his fate in that Paris street.
They both had a great deal they owed the young Lord Dewhurst, and the reflection made Andrew hold him just a little tighter, as though afraid of dropping him and adding to the debt.
"Let's leave," Percy ordered, opening the door for Andrew. The Scarlet Pimpernel took care to take one complete set of Lord Dewhurst's clothing, and a pair of shoes from by the front door, so it might prompt Robespierre to search for his 'pet' on the streets before turning his thoughts to rescuers. This time, he did not leave the little parchment with his Pimpernel seal on it, as he always had done; it was tempting, but that was more the Fop than Sir Percy, in any case, and he just couldn't risk Tony.
Anthony sat in the carriage feeling disgustingly pleased with
himself because he had won the 'Pimpernel Pool'. There were several
such pools amongst His Majesty's Secret Service employees, and
the rules were simple. It cost a guinea to join a pool, and then
one paid an annual fee of another guinea to take part. If an agent
were sent anywhere from where it would be impossible to discover
a piece of information, his part in the pool was suspended until
he could, and he could continue his year after his (or her) return.
The Pimpernel Pool stood at something over £600, and the requirements for winning were also simple: discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself. Before 1795, if the Pimpernel were found to be dead, the pool would be given to Admiral Halliwell to be disposed of for his agents benefit. After 1795, however, with such a drop in his activity, it was decided that if he were dead, then the pool could be won on the presentation of irrefutable proof that it had been a given man.
The frontrunners were Timothy Hastings and Andrew Ffoulkes. Weatherby had also been a strong contender, but had since died, but there was continuity in the activities of the League; some believed he had trained his successors or perhaps even that there was no one man to claim the identity, but that it was shared between an 'inner circle', others defected to backing Sir Andrew or Lord Hastings.
And to think it was that fop Blakeney all along! Most of HM's Secret Servants had believed him to be a kind of front-man who acted the pompous fool to keep society distracted from the League using his status and clever misdirection to stir things up; that he was a League member and that his private yacht, the /Daydream/, was used to transport the émigrés, was considered certain; also that the Pimpernel must be able to draw on vast resources made it likely that he was at least close to the Pimpernel but not that he himself was their leader. So - Blakeney /was/ the Pimpernel, was he; how about that?
Anthony had been pleased to meet him as Monsieur Antoine, a potential informant and League member. Although he had not declared his identity, the alteration in Blakeney's personality was so remarkable that there could be no explanation. His distress over Lord Dewhurst was no fakery (neither was Sir Andrew's, who seemed the more upset of the two); Sir Percy appeared a sensitive, compassionate man and the perfect contrast to his behaviour while out in English society. It was more like looking at two different men than some of his own acts were!
Anthony heard a carriage halt close to the one he sat in, and presumed it heralded the return of Blakeney and Ffoulkes. Wise; to escape in one and transfer to another in this secluded, but open area, where anybody following the original coach would have to stay too far away to properly identify the second. Fresh horses were an added bonus. He wished he knew where they had been, but hoped that they would have come to trust him enough to confide the information. If he was any judge, they were seeking information about Dewhurst; perhaps information that Monsieur Antoine may provide once he could be confident that /Seawitch/ was away.
Blakeney opened the door quickly, and let Ffoulkes enter before him, who was carrying an unconscious figure. "Another rescue that is successful, Monsieur Pimpernel?" Anthony was too well trained to show surprise and asked the question charmingly, in poor English.
"Indeed, Monsieur Antoine," Percy answered, abandoning all dignity and kneeling by Sir Andrew's burden. The man was still deeply insensible, his breathing slow and skin pale and clammy beneath the damp of the rain. "That must have been a terrible cut," Percy murmured to Andrew, showing a forearm with a livid scar across it. One that Anthony recognised instantly, having been the one to inflict it.
The spy kept his mouth clamped shut because he didn't think he could stop from laughing if he opened it.
Lt. Kennedy had just been rescued by the Scarlet Pimpernel!
_CHAPTER SEVEN: TRYING TO LIVE IT DOWN_
Sir Andrew sighed, "he looks" he regarded the sleeping
form. "Not as I expectedI always thought Tony was going to
end up rather like his father - on the portly side." He was
trying to shift the limp body in his arms to lie comfortably on
the back seat, being so gentle as to be ineffectual, and Percy
was almost as bad in his determination not to put so much as a
bruise on their 'friend'.
"Think where he's been living," Percy said sounding a little snappish and retrieving one of the blankets they had ready and pulling the shirt down a little, as it had suffered somewhat for it's wearer being carried out and into the coach quickly. There seemed to be pock-marks down one side of his exposed leg, as though he had stood too near a discharging musket. And beneath the wet shirt, the two League members hadn't noticed that their charge seemed just a little too muscular to have been a prisoner. His hair must be a richer gold colour, too, despite hanging limply over the seat.
Monsieur Antoine certainly knew how to make chloroform - Kennedy looked like a corpse, and Anthony reflected that he ought to feel guilty for the way the Lieutenant was going to suffer when he woke up; even Percy couldn't resist checking that Dewhurst was still breathing. The hand in his was calloused: the scars at wrists and ankles told of a terrible imprisonment: the general assortment of marks and injuries a seaman might expect to accumulate were each given some awful meaning by the rescuers.
Anthony wanted to laugh again at the very tender attention Kennedy was receiving; they were trying to dry him off with the blankets, keep him warm and comfortable, not wake him and examine him all at the same time.
Percy was opening the shirt at the neck. "Where was he shot?" he asked Ffoulkes.
"I didn't see exactly," Ffoulkes replied. "He dragged himself up and was bleeding. I think his hand was" Andrew placed his own hand just under his rib-cage, and when Percy looked down, Anthony also leaned over to investigate, unable to resist. There was indeed a scar; a glossy, thick film of skin overlaid with delicate lines, as though some tiny daring spider had built its web on Kennedy's breast. But it was much higher than Andrew had indicated.
"Oh, Tony, what did they do to you?" Percy murmured.
'Tony' didn't even sigh in his sleep, and Anthony wondered just how much of his chloroform they had used; it was somewhat potent, and only a tiny dose was needed. He felt less like laughing as he reflected on his own knowledge, which was superior to theirs. Robespierre would allow no marks to mar the perfection of his pet, and he gave Sir Percy and Sir Andrew the benefit of not being professional spies. They were not to know that an absence of physical marks could be worse thing than this abundance of them.
Anthony recalled again the stark terror displayed by Kennedy's cousin; the constant look of fear in his eyes; but also the remarkable courage he had shown in not crying out when Anthony had reached to help him, or giving into the panic and allowing himself to be taken to a ship full of strangers by a boatload of other strangers. When Blakeney and Ffoulkes discovered the truth of the matter (which they inevitably would), they would have cause to be very proud of Lord Dewhurst. Very proud indeed.
He had to smile while watching Sir Andrew, though, and knowing his quiet gentleness was being bestowed on Kennedy, not Dewhurst. He tried to make the gesture look fond and patronising to allay suspicion as they abandoned their attempts to dry him off, and Ffoulkes sat very uncomfortably to cradle their insensible burden against the jostling of the carriage. Percy was wrapping him in yet more blanketsoh god, Kennedy really /was/ pale - he was going to feel like hell come morning. Or, indeed, come evening!
"Your friend is not well?" he asked. "He has the maladies?"
Kennedy, small and less than well-built looked like a child cradled by the tall, muscular Sir Andrew. His head rested against Ffoulkes' broad chest and his hand had fallen limply against his carer's stomach. Anthony didn't think he was going to be able to make this report to Halliwell without giggling like a little girl! It was a story he intended to repeat over and over, especially to everybody Kennedy knew, and would thoroughly enjoy the Lieutenant's acute embarrassment.
It was a good thing that this was not really Lord Dewhurst; he would panic if held so closely, and his frightened rejection of their attempts to care for him would only serve to hurt them more. Anthony, giving into a rare flare of compassion, resolved to keep them separated from the real Dewhurst until the latter could cope better with their determination to coddle him.
Kennedy, however, would have to shift for himself. If he could resist the temptation to kill them.
"I think it is a good thing to take him to a safe-house? Yes-no?" he asked, in inexpert English.
"Yes - it would be best, I think," Blakeney answered. "I think he blamed us - me - for his capture. I can't fault him for that"
"He has been the prisoner of Robespierre," Anthony reminded him. "Robespierre twists and turns truth intouhstrange shapes. True shapes but very strange and so fact is not represented rightly. If your friend has been hearing this twisting truth for long, then he may think he has proofs in his eyes to support it because they fit into Robespierre's new shape."
"Over ten years," Ffoulkes said, quietly. Anthony had the impression that he might be able to calculate it down to hours, if he tried. "It's been over ten years."
"So long enough to see only the shapes he has been told to see. But all improves, yes-no? He will recall better in England, your friend."
"I hope so," Blakeney said, almost too softly to be heard.
Kennedy woke feeling as though somebody had sand-papered the
inside of his head and throat, and then stuffed his brain with
cotton wool, plugging up his ears, nose and mouth. His eyes itched
as he blinked and he desperately wished to be unconscious again.
The fog in his mind prevented him from instantly registering that
something was wrong, and his memory was returning in sluggish
fits and starts. He let it come in its own time: the house, finding
Dewhurst, getting him aboard the boat and returning to kill Robespierre.
That thought jolted him fully awake and he leapt out of the bed, and instantly collapsed to the floor, too slow even to catch himself properly. Kennedy lay for a few moments, staring at the room's odd angle while he regained his facilities. He had seen Blakeney, moved to attack him and then was grabbed from behind; somebody held him fast and drugged him. Kennedy sat up more slowly. There was a small table by the bed, on which stood a carafe of water, a glass and two notes. One bore the simple instruction /"drink *slowly*"/ and the other was sealed.
Staying on the floor, Kennedy reached up for the glass and took a very small sip - ready to spit the stuff out should he detect anything other than water, but the precaution proved unnecessary. He obeyed the instruction and drank it sparingly, beginning to feel better - at least physically - by the time he had got through the second glass. His eyes had watered enough to make blinking less painful and his throat no longer felt so raw.
He waited until the worst dizziness had passed and then opened the second note. It was from Anthony and he fought down an urge to go hunt the spy down and murder him, /slowly/.
/My Dear Friend
Congratulations - you are among those privileged amphibians to have been rescued by monsieur S_P_. Excuse my unsteady hand, but I can barely keep from laughing!
You probably feel less than your usual smiling and sunny self because you had the misfortune not only to be rendered insensible, but you were somewhat overdosed.
You must feel like you want to die and Walker sends his sincerest condolences. Me? Well, I'd probably find it less funny if I hadn't been the one to mix the draught. I did tell your cousin's most particular friend, AF, to use the stuff only sparingly. When he returned the bottle to me, I realised that I had better make this confession in absentia before you tried to make me feel much as you do, right now.
Despite this, however, I eagerly await every opportunity to relay the whole tale to our every mutual acquaintance and I am determined to enjoy myself enormously at your expense.
You are at our pre-arranged destination. Feel free to use any amenities and clothing you find around.
Drink lots of water, avoid rich food, bright sunlight, alcohol and feelings of disgust and hatred for your most devoted brother-in-trade.
Ps - if you are concerned for your dignity in any way, on discovering that you aren't wearing the clothes you left in, I should assure you that I had nothing to do with the matter. Your cousin's aforementioned friend is responsible. 'Mother Hen' does not begin to describe him/
It could have been a note from one drunken friend to another
(presumably that was the point of the jovial tone, besides serving
to torture him further). Kennedy would never, ever admit it. Not
with a pistol to his head while at a final confession to St. Peter,
but Anthony was rightthe situation was funny in it's way, and
if their positions were reversed, he would hardly resist gloating
in such a way over Anthony.
A few hours later, there was a knock at the door and Anthony's hand appeared, waving a white handkerchief. Kennedy knew he need not panic as the knock had been a most particular one employed by such men as they. He did contemplate having something ready to throw at the spy's head once it came into view, but decided that his aim was too good, and his current inclination would be to throw /very/ hard.
"Is it safe to come in, or am I going to get short, or beheaded, or stabbed, or receive some other damage?" he asked.
"Good evening, Anthony," Kennedy tried to say, breezily, as though all were well with him, but his voice rasped dryly and he coughed.
Anthony's face went from amused to true concern upon seeing him. "Lord, Kennedy - you look awful!" he crossed the room quickly, as though he wished to catch the Lieutenant before he fell. "Can I get you anything further? Truly - you look terrible!"
"Well you know who you might blame for /that/!" Kennedy retorted.
Anthony grinned sheepishly. "When Blakeney and Ffoulkes asked for something potent, I swear I didn't know they were going to use it on you. Or Lord Dewhurst, for that matter. They wouldn't let me in on their little mission. Wise, I suppose. Do you feel fit enough to move out?"
The lingering effects seemed to be only the occasional wave of dizziness and a mad thirst. It hurt to eat or speak, but otherwise Kennedy was quite confident that he wouldn't endanger their escape, so nodded.
"Fit enough to steal a boat and get back to /Seawitch/?" Anthony asked.
Kennedy nodded again.
"Excellent - I'll even let you choose which one," the spy offered, magnanimously.
Getting to the dock was a relatively simple matter. Since Kennedy looked so rough, people were happy to avoid them, supposing him to have some awful illness, and Anthony behaved drunkenly enough to reel along with him, rather than take him to a physician, but not quite drunk enough to be a public nuisance and end up arrested.
Kennedy surveyed the boats. There were several likely fishing vessels, simply rigged and ideal for two men to take to meet /Seawitch/ without arousing suspicion from anyone (except perhaps the legitimate owners). However, Kennedy rejected all these highly suitable craft for one single boat which would not be easy to sail between only two of them and which would be difficult to steal since she still had a small crew aboard.
"That one!" he declared, pointing directly at the /Daydream/. "That yacht - we'll take her."
"Isn't she rather large for just two of us?" Anthony asked.
"Doesn't she have some crew left aboard?"
"But you want that one?"
"Yes. I want that one."
"You prefer to turn down these ideal, empty little craft who can easily join His Majesty's navy once they've served us, which will be very easy to steal and sail just because you want to pinch Blakeney's yacht in a fit of petty vengeance?" Anthony clarified. "And leave him and Sir Andrew stranded in France."
"You do catch on quickly, Anthony, I must say!" Kennedy retorted with a grin. "You should have joined the Navy!"
"I'm a bad, bad influence on you," he grumbled, but didn't argue or pull rank on Kennedy. He even agreed to the simple plan for the removal of the crew.
Some were ashore already, leaving only four to be dealt with aboard. Wishing to preserve his identity as Monsieur Antoine and remain on friendly terms with Blakeney and Ffoulkes, Anthony covered his head and face, save for his eyes, and a bit of fake hair peeping out from the under the scarf, while Kennedy seemed satisfied to be recognised for who he wasor perhaps be mistaken for Lord Dewhurst.
They hired a couple of men to take the crew off the yacht and take them ashore safely. The yacht's little 3-pounder canon was enough to sink a boat should the boatmen attempt to harm the /Daydream/'s crew on the short row back, so none of Blakeney's men came to serious harm, save for a few bruises.
Anthony followed Kennedy's instructions for getting under weigh without question or complaint, as between them they got /Daydream/ out of the dock and into the open sea, heading for /Seawitch/'s patrol routes. /Daydream/ had been rigged for speed, she was well-stocked and luxurious. Kennedy could have sailed her to England if so inclined, but rejected any notion of such when Anthony asked what his plans were.
"As a spy, traitor, blackguard and thief, I very rarely have cause to listen to what poor shreds of my conscience yet survive," Anthony said, helping himself to some of Blakeney's best brandy, "but I do feel just a little bit guilty about this. Blakeney isn't some evil monster, you know, and Sir Andrew is a true gentleman."
Kennedy snorted. After twenty-four hours, he didn't feel much better, having slept and woken up in much the same state he had the previous day. Getting up, washing in cold water and drinking a lot of tea rid him of the worst, but if ever wished an enemy to truly suffer, he would certainly use Anthony's concoction to knock them out. His bad temper knew very few restraints since he had the culprit within easy snapping distance, and was not in a generous enough frame of mind to listen to how kindly Anthony found the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
"My conscience is still unconscious," he declared. "Or at least satisfied enough to pretend to be asleep."
"It's as well I wrote Blakeney a notebut how I'll ever manage to explain this, I really don't know anddammit, you didn't steal my note did you, Kennedy?"
Kennedy had no notion of what flash of insight might have given Anthony that information, but he did know better than to give him less than the truth.
"I was tempted," he confessed. "But then I supposed you'd acted as 'Monsieur Antoine', and I wouldn't interfere with your duties." Kennedy grinned. "But I /was/ tempted! What did you write?"
"Just that I'd taken it upon myself to get Dewhurst to England as quickly as possible. That I felt they didn't seem to trust me sufficiently to put themselves in my hands and I hoped that making this passage with their poor friend would relieve them of the burden of making such arrangements, and that it would go some way to proving my sincere allegiance. The usual kind of rubbish I spin to people who don't trust poor little me." He pouted.
"So why have I never merited a letter?" Kennedy asked blandly.
"You don't have to trust me - I have the Admiral to order you about," he was told, swiftly, but good-humouredly.
_CHAPTER EIGHT: THE JOURNEY HOME_
"So, I have to sit there and pretend that all is well,
with Sir Andrew cradling Kennedy, here, like a baby and Blakeney
cataloguing every scar and speculating how it came to be! Between
them, /I/ certainly saw more of Kennedy than I ever wanted to!"
Anthony broke off his narration to laugh uncontrollably.
Walker was already enjoying himself immensely, Pellew broke into a chuckle and Bush's rumble of mirth followed. Hornblower smiled politely, but at least not gloatingly and Kennedy had no greater wish at that moment than to be somewhere else anywhere else - even in France. He had not heard half these details, and Anthony seemed determined to hold to his promise to spread the tale as far and wide as he could.
The spy wiped his eyes theatrically. "My god - they checked his pulse every two minutes! Patted his hands, stroked his hair - hahahahaha - and through it all, I have to resist the temptation to say 'he has the muscles of a horse, for god's sake - he weighs a ton! Why haven't you noticed you've rescued the wrong man'?"
More laughter, and Kennedy thought longingly of the hull splitting apart and letting him fall through. He wanted to lie down, tend to his cousin and find something to eat that wouldn't hurt to swallow, but couldn't quite decide the order in which he wanted to do these things and he glared peevishly at Anthony, whose story-telling was effectively preventing him from doing any. Anthony looked at him, registered the disgust written into every feature, and began to giggle again.
When there was a knock at the door, it was a welcome distraction. "I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but-" Dr. Sebastian started. "Archie - you look awful! What happened to you?" He rushed forward to look at his friend, almost on instinct, taking his wrist to monitor Kennedy's pulse with one hand and brushing his hair out the way to check his temperature with the other. At the sight, Anthony and his fellow officers laughed again at this unconscious imitation of Blakeney's actions as the spy had described them.
"I'm all right," Kennedy assured, quietly. "Sir Andrew drugged me andover-did it. How is Lord Dewhurst?"
Sebastian, apparently finding that Kennedy's resemblance to a corpse didn't extend far enough to warrant instant surgery, stood back. "Well, I thought it best to let him sleep for as long as he needed, which he did. Shortly before you returned, I tried to examine him, and now he's crawled under the cot and won't come out."
Pellew cleared his throat as a prelude to offering further information. "Mr. Hornblower considered that as you don't object to sleeping in a hammock, and you might like to remain with your cousin, Lord Dewhurst would be best placed in /his/ cabin." It was indeed the more convenient arrangement, as the First Officer's cabin was larger than the others and Kennedy was gratified that whatever barrier now existed between them, it did not extend to Hornblower foregoing his customary generosity.
He mustered a smile. "Thank you, sir; and from my cousin - I'm sure he will appreciate it," he said, wishing he was free to say 'thank you, Horatio - what would I do without you?'.
"You and Lord Dewhurst are welcome, Mr. Kennedy," came the formal response.
Kennedy went with Dr Sebastian, Anthony timing his next speech so that he would over-hear the start of it, "now he's out of the way, I /have/ to tell you about"
"Besides thisbehaviour," Kennedy began, "is Tony all right?"
"He seems to have been kept in reasonable health - he's a little on the feeble side, and has been nourished sufficiently, if not well. Apparently considered a valuable prisoner; I couldn't tell whether he's been mistreated much as he wouldn't let me near him, butI think his behaviour stands as the most pressing problem," Dr Sebastian answered, thoroughly. "Some time spent doing little but resting and exercising should see him returned to reasonable healthat least physically. If he's ever going to be"
"Even remotely sane?" Kennedy tried, harshly. "Able to function like a man and not a lapdog? Think rationally? Not act like a terrified little boy?" He turned to his friend, and continued more gently, knowing that Sebastian wouldn't withhold an iota of help if it was his to offer. "I know. You don't have spare me - I've already seen what's been done; I know what he's been reduced to. And I'd rather just hear it, DoctorLuis - do you think there's any chance he can recover?"
Sebastian considered. "I think that to expect him to ever be 'his old self', whatever that was, would be too much to hope for. To think any progress will be easy would be to underestimate his tormentors most severely. Do I think he could be comfortable in society one day, and even learn to enjoy life again? I think that would be possible - even probable - with the right support and care."
Kennedy nodded. "I know how mind control works," he said, not especially proud of the knowledge, but finding it useful, nonetheless. "And he seems to have been working on ways to get around his directives; there were moments when he had to be extremely brave, and he came through, which makes me, at least, think it isn't hopeless. Iwouldn't like to think that even as comfortable a Bedlam as the Exeter estate is his only option."
"His family are disinterested?" Sebastian asked.
"They don't even know," Kennedy replied. "I didn't want to raise false hopes. But his father could be an ogre, and he was his mother's last chance to coddle a child since he was quite late born. Tony's eldest brother is the Duke, now, and he isn't a bad man, butI have the impression he isn't very patient, and I fear that if simply returned to his family, he would be left in the care of the first physician they could find and too many servants' names to remember. They didn't approve of his friendship with Blakeney; I don't know whether they've since discovered what he was about."
"In that case, his current physician is inclined to recommend Culzean," Sebastian said, with a smile. "Provided the Earl is not too put out by the inconvenience."
Kennedy allowed a small smile to tug at the corners of his own mouth. "I believe I like that recommendation," he said. "And am certain to put it forwardon the advice of Tony's physician, of course."
Sebastian waited in the wardroom while Kennedy tackled the problem of his cousin alone. He felt a momentary pang of loss for his tiny cabin, which was made a little bigger for the lack of a cot, and which he felt he had made reasonably comfortable, despite the presence of a 24-pounder. It shouldn't have felt strange to enter Hornblower's cabin, though - he wished it were as ordinary an event as entering his own, but it seemed that nearly everything aboard ship was not quite right if he did not have his stalwart friend. He had felt this way aboard /Swiftsure/, when he was not too distracted by study.
The cabin looked empty - Dewhurst had hidden himself well under the cot, but there was a strangled whimper as he closed the door. He didn't want to startle his cousin so had 'announced' his presence, and he crouched by the bed. "It's only me, Tony," he said.
There was no response, and Kennedy felt the weight of the past few days pressing on him. He needed to see Dewhurst, and Dewhurst needed to be able to see him, so since Dewhurst was not going to come out without a struggle, it appeared that he was going to have to join his cousin. Decision made, Kennedy lay on the floor and rolled beneath the cot with him. Dewhurst stared at him as though he were the one behaving more strangely.
"I c-c-c-c-c-can't let-" he started, chokingly, then turned to Kennedy. "Y-you look awful."
"I look worse than I feel," Kennedy consoled, lying as he had never lied before. "To be sure; you don't seem very well yourself."
Dewhurst looked down. He was lying on his stomach, his arms bunched beneath his chest, as though he were trying to protect his shirt-front. "Hurts to be touched," he muttered, very quietly. Kennedy drew his own conclusions from that, since there was only so much room down here, and they were forced into contact. At least his cousin was not afraid to be touched by /him/; that was something.
"But Dr. Sebastian is trying to help," Kennedy said. "He's the finest man I know, Tony - he wouldn't hurt you. Indeed - I have trusted him with my life on many an occasion, and should I ever need assistance for those I cared about, he would be the first person I should call on" he fished for some persuasive argument. "I could have booked a private package and tended you myself, except that I wanted you to be tended by him, instead."
Dewhurst looked up at him, as though searching for some indication of deception. It had been a plan they considered, depending on how Lord Dewhurst had been when they found him. If his conditions had loaned themselves more towards physical deprivation, then a private package would have been the better answer as a fat purse would procure them more space and privacy than was available on a man o'war. Kennedy knew he would have missed Sebastian, then.
"Won't you come out? It's not very comfortable down here."
Dewhurst considered, then shook his head.
"You'll have to come out of there sometime, you know," he added, very gently. He knew that he could acquire instant obedience where he to make it an order, but he wanted to keep his cousin away from orders and directives as much as possible.
Stubbornly, Dewhurst shook his head again.
"Tony - this is a battleship. If you were to push that screen beside you hard enough, you can bring it down; none of the wardroom interior is solid because we often have to clear for action, and all this is moved away. To get you out, all I need do is dismantle the walls, and I'd much rather not do so."
Experimentally, Dewhurst pushed at the screen. It gave a little (indeed, it was doubtful that any but the strongest man could bring it down from beneath the cot, where leverage was nearly impossible to gain), but that it shifted just slightly was enough to convince his Lordship of the truth. He looked appealingly at Kennedy. "I don't kn-kn-kn-kn-know what to do," he sobbed into his hands.
Tired, feeling a little light-headed (and thirsty again), desperate on behalf of his cousin, cold and cramped and now starting with a headache, Kennedy contemplated a few hysterics himself, and waited a handful of moments until he thought the pair of them were within something resembling self-control again. "If I stay with you, will you let Dr. Sebastian tend you?" Dewhurst sniffed, the tears abating and looked at him. "Please, Tony?" he pressed. "For me?"
His cousin managed a feeble smile. "Do- do you want me to stay with you while he t-t-t-tends /you/."
"Its more than Anthony would do for me," Kennedy smiled. "Come on; there are warmer places to be than under here." He crawled out, but there wasn't room enough for him to assist Dewhurst. Once his cousin was standing (which was a step towards dignity, at least), he opened the screen door and invited the doctor into the little cabin.
Dewhurst didn't just seem to need his moral support but actually clung to him throughout Sebastian's examination - planting fresh bruises on his forearm. There was something very natural in the way Dewhurst would cower against him whenever he felt threatened, and he seemed to swallow more than one urge to cry out by stuffing the sleeve of his night-shirt (or rather one of Bush's nightshirts, Kennedy guessed) into his mouth. When the ordeal was all over, he then proceeded to cry himself to sleep, still clutching at Kennedy, but didn't awaken as he and Sebastian put him to bed, and Kennedy asked the doctor for his opinion.
"There is no visible mistreatment," Sebastian said in a hushed voice. "The shot to his chest has been tended by an expert, if not a particularly tidy one (although I'd be reluctant to criticise having never seen the original wound), and he's not been neglected; he's clean, no parasites or infections; no visible signs that he's been drugged - at least not recently - he isn't malnourished, but he seems to have been denied exercise. There are a few fresh scrapes on his legs and hands, but nothing a fall or two during your escape wouldn't account for."
Kennedy nodded. "We ran perhaps a hundred feet, and he was fagged by the end of it. When we reached the dock he must have stumbled and fallen a dozen times. I had the impression that he was running on nothing but desperation and fear by then."
"I'm sorry to say that your cousin has been the victim of some very clever men, Archie," Sebastian informed him after a deep breath. "I think his diet has been carefully composed to keep him healthy; likewise his exercise was dictated sufficiently to keep him on his feet, but deny him energy to escape by himself. Any beatings or physical punishment were carefully conducted to leave no lasting marks. Certainly there is no way to completely hide a bullet wound. Here-"
He handed Kennedy a glass of water from the decanter. It lasted a few seconds before he required a re-fill.
"Thank you. Everything I learned aboard /Swiftsure/ indicated thatwell - that people under such control are not /worth/ rescuing. They become absurdly loyal to their abusers; most die in their service, if they're even discovered by agents at all. If there's a precedent for treating this sort of problem, then nobody ever told me about it."
Sebastian sat beside him at the table, and smiled in understanding. "From what Mr Walker told me of his behaviour, and from what I saw just now, I would say that he's taken the first steps in his own recovery. You didn't drag him screaming and kicking from the house; neither did he jeopardise your escape by over-eagerness. He certainly isn't afraid to touch you, which means that he probably wasn't afraid to touch at least /one/ person during his captivity - most likely one particular person. However - he wouldn't speak to anyone aboard. The first time he's spoken is when you crawled under the cot with him."
"Robespierre, I'd guess," Kennedy put in. "I think all the instructions and pseudo-devotion he's been directed to show to Robespierre, he's transferred to me. I'm no stranger to him; we were as close as we were permitted before he fell in with Blakeney. But-" he lowered his voice. "It can't go on. Once he's been returned to Culzean, I'll be returning to /Seawitch/ - perhaps not immediately, but if my orders state otherwise" he didn't have to explain his position to the doctor. "Yet I'm afraid that leaving him might do more damage. I just don't know enough about the aftermath of such control."
"In theory, the transference of this pseudo-devotion - as you put it - lessens its hold, unless it's reinforced," Sebastian said. "I did some reading, under the circumstances. My advice would be to use it to his advantage, for now. Break his sleeping and eating habits; don't let him dress as neatly as Robespierre used to insist on. Allow him more exercise and fresh-air. But don't let him cling too much. Then, when it comes time for you to leave, he may well transfer this loyalty to Lord Cassillis, but it would do no harm as you have not reinforced it; so long as Cassillis doesn't, either, and keeps his schedule as irregular as possible, many of these habits will fade. The 'Rules' he's been following will first be bent and then broken.
"Unfortunately, however, it will take time."
Kennedy nodded, the tiredness returning, and bringing reinforcements. This was so important and yet he scarce felt able to attend to what the doctor was saying. It went in, though. He was sure to recall it and could mull it over when he was sufficiently awake to do so. He managed to smile, though. "Where would I be without Dr. Sebastian? Or Luis, for that matter?"
"Probably asleep," Sebastian chuckled. "Go on - I'm sure Captain Pellew will excuse you duty for a day or soa walking corpse will only frighten the hands"
Bush tried not to be irritated when Lord Tony Dewhurst woke
with a screech and he heard Kennedy's voice trying to quieten
his sobs and calm him down. He supposed that after all Dewhurst
had been through, a few disturbed nights were not so great a sacrifice
to the man: at least he didn't have to get up as he would if his
sleep was interrupted by a beat to quarters.
He only ever heard Dewhurst speak to his cousin, and he wouldn't even do that if there were others around - he would tug pathetically at Kennedy's sleeve until the Lieutenant would lean towards him so the intelligence might be whispered in his ear. Bush was caught between disgust for the wreck of Lord Dewhurst and pity for the same. There were times when he was so obviously trying to break whatever control Robespierre had over him and at those brief moments, Bush even admired him, although with that strange mixture of sympathy and repugnance.
Hornblower had confided to him that Kennedy had been in much the same state when they found him in El Ferrol, although he had not had some 'puppet-master' to pull his strings. Dewhurst's routine of keeping himself clean, eating and taking care of himself was frustrating to watch and he kept to it almost without thinking. Kennedy was trying to break these habits with a mix of success and failure that obviously frustrated him.
"You're too g-g-g-g-g-good to me, Archie," Dewhurst said. Bush heard him blow his nose and sigh, trying to pull himself together.
"You'd do the same, I'm sure," Kennedy replied, quietly. He must be sitting on the cot with his cousin, if Bush could hear him so clearly.
However the polite return brought on a fresh bout of tears, although - thank god - they were quieter ones. "Oh, Tony," Kennedy sighed. He sounded tired, too. "I'll see you safe to Culzean - Cass will look after you; you needn't fear. Nobody is going to abandon you. If the French kill me tomorrow, Captain Pellew will ensure you safe to England, at least, and if not, then Commander Hornblower or Mr. Bush. And failing all of themMr Orrock, I know, would take you safely to Ireland."
Dewhurst sniffed, and Bush idly wondered whether he had even smiled at Kennedy's jest.
"Heavens, Tony - anyone would think you didn't /want/ to go home!"
Dewhurst muttered some indistinct reply.
"Deserve?" came Kennedy's voice. "What are you talking about?"
"What I've d-d-d-done," Dewhurst said, brokenly.
"You were caughtand abandoned. You're guilty of nothing worse than choosing the wrong friends and the wrong cause. Oh lord, Tony, please don't cry again!...All right - I'm sorry - I'll stop saying terrible things about Blakeney and Ffoulkes." There was a long pause. "What did he do to you?" Kennedy asked, gently. Apparently Dewhurst was not going to get over this quickly, but Bush was awake now, as was a disturbingly morbid curiosity along with him. What /had/ reduced Dewhurst to this state, he wondered.
"Come on - Captain Pellew left the brandy for your benefit, not mine. Here - oh!"
The screen between the cabins shuddered violently, startling all three of them.
"Sorry, William," Kennedy called - just loudly for him to hear easily.
Bush made his usual reply, which to the rest of the world sounded like a grunt, but which to him made perfect sense.
Then more softly, "I'm sorry, Tony - I didn't mean to startle you. Here you are."
Another very long pause. "I wasn't going to approach this subject until we were ashore," Kennedy said. "Actually - I had no intention of approaching it at all, since I intended Cass to do it for me. But you know that I was taken prisoner in France before being moved to Spain. I did spend enough time in French jails, andI know what they do to prisoners who take their fancy." Bush heard a rustle of paper. "The informant may have been making this up in case his letter was intercepted, and I had hoped it was not true, but the way you flinch from people when they reach to you - as you did just then - tells me that some part of it /is/ true." More silence. "Is that what you meant when you said you didn't deserve it? - No?" There was genuine confusion in that last syllable, and Bush frowned to himself; he wasn't so naïve that he didn't know precisely to what Kennedy was referring, but to stop listening now seemed too much like cowardice, even though the whole subject
turned his stomach.
"You'll forgive me if I find that hard to credit," Kennedy responded, rather stiffly.
"Stoppedstopped fighting," Dewhurst whispered, then in a flurry of desperation, added. "It was ag-ag-ag-against the Rules to fight! I c-couldn't help itI-"
"Shh, Tony, it's all right. It's all right," Kennedy's voice said. "Hush. There's more than one way to be forced, you know. It doesn't matter, anyway - whatever you tell me, I'm not going to abandon you."
"Y-y-y-y-you always fought, d-d-didn't you?" Lord Dewhurst sounded bitter.
"No, I didn't." Kennedy's voice was surprisingly strong and matter-of-fact. "A new midshipman came aboard /Justinian/ about a year after I joined and we became friends," he said. "And Simpsonwell - I needn't go into detail, but he warned me that if I resisted - if I didn't keep my appointments with him, then he'd find someone who would co-operate and suggested that the new midshipman looked likely. So I stopped fighting, too." There was a soft laugh. "It wasn't until years later that I realised he only made the threat because he knew that I wasn't so soft any more. I was already good with a sword, and with a rifle or musket, but I was learning my skills with pistol and canon, too. I wasn't some placid would-be little thespian any longer; I'd become stronger, and sooner or later, I would have been able to beat him. So he had to find a new way to force me before /I/ realised it as well."
Bush was wide awake, now. He knew enough about Simpson and /Justinian/ to realise who Kennedy was referring to, and couldn't help but wonder whether Hornblower knew of this. However much the commander confided in him, this was obviously a matter he would not reveal, since it would affect Kennedy so much, and while they had believed him dead, Hornblower had rarely spoken of him, and would certainly not tell Bush anything that might risk lowering his opinion of their late friend. Since his return, Hornblower would barely speak /to/ Kennedy, never mind /about/ him.
"You- you don't d-d-d-d-despise me?"
"If I despised you, would I have come all the way to France - at great inconvenience to Captain Pellew as he's been an officer down all this time - to come and get you? And if I thought worse of you, now, why am I not walking out of the cabin? Or flinging you overboard?" Apparently Dewhurst was thinking seriously about this point. "Now - do you think you'll stop worrying enough to go to sleep?"
Dewhurst sniffed, and Bush supposed he must be nodding as a few moments later, he heard the rustle of canvas as Kennedy took to his hammock once more.
"I'm sorryabout M-m-m-mister Hornblower; that you aren't f-f-friends any more," Dewhurst said, softly.
"You have a bloody good memory!" Kennedy replied. "You remember my letters? Alluhtwo of them? You were captured not long after."
"I remember," Dewhurst confirmed, quietly. "And I'm n-n-n-not a fool! He doesn't know, does he?"
"No, indeed," Kennedy agreed. "There's no reason for him to know. Good-night, Tony."
"G'night, Archie. Th-th-th-th-thank you."
There was another extremely long pause. "Any time," Kennedy whispered.
_CHAPTER NINE: HOMECOMING_
"I can't believe you invited them here, Cass," Kennedy
shook his head at his cousin, trying not to be too irritated with
him. Cassillis had acted in the way he thought best, and whatever
Kennedy's Naval rank, or whatever position was bestowed on him
as part of His Majesty's Secret Services, Cassillis was the head
of the family, not he, and that social distinction gave Cassillis
the right to make any decisions on Dewhurst's - or indeed some
of his own - behalf.
Certainly the right to invite whoever he chose to his own home and estate was entirely his, and if Blakeney and Ffoulkes were his choice, then there was nothing Kennedy could do about it.
Perhaps part of his reluctance to meet the two gentlemen again were the result of what had occurred the last time he found himself in the same room as they. It had been so long since his temper had simply snapped in that way that he had himself forgotten that it could. On the other hand, he found it difficult to be sorry, Ffoulkes making such a stupid tactless blunder like that said very little for him, and the amount of money Blakeney had lost to Hornblower that evening only proved that he /literally/ had more money than sense.
How Cassillis could think that any meeting was going to be on friendly terms, he didn't know, because his civility would only be granted for the twin reasons of Dewhurst and Cassillis himself. Kennedy tried to consider Dewhurst's feelings in all of this, and rather than make the fact of Blakeney and Ffoulkes' presence more welcome, it only gave him a new set of concerns.
His own snide comments about the League had gone unanswered by Dewhurst aboard /Seawitch/, but Kennedy didn't actually know whether that was because Dewhurst still had not built up sufficient courage to disagree with him, or whether his cousin also felt that they were responsible for his captivity, and therefore was not inclined to be kind to them, either.
Kennedy considered that had he been favourably disposed towards Blakeney and Ffoulkes, he might have found the reunion between them and his cousin Dewhurst touching. Tony launched himself upon the two men from the stairs, laughing and crying at the same time; his friends were hardly less affected. Sir Andrew's mass engulfed the wasted figure; he appeared very much like a child in the big man's arms. In fact, he was surprised by the true enthusiasm for their reunion that he was witnessing in Blakeney and Ffoulkes; they were genuinely ecstatic about their reunion with Dewhurst.
However, the last time Kennedy had felt so hurt was during one of his more serious disputes with Hornblower, and he tried not to be jealous. His own reunion with his cousin had not been this affectionate, but he was, ultimately, a sensible man; prone to bursts of passion, perhaps, and the occasional desire to rile against an injustice when he knew he would lose the battle, but he had also begun to know people extremely well. If Dewhurst had not greeted him in this way, Kennedy knew that it was because of shock or the distress of being a prisoner, and not for any lack of feeling for his cousin.
Dewhurst was a free man, now; learning to use that freedom once more, and this meeting had not been tainted by being on the site of his imprisonment. He had been granted some little time to recover, by now, and look forward to seeing these men again, as he would probably have not expected ever to see Kennedy.
But while he could bury his envy beneath a large pile of common sense and logic, he could not deny that this open display of affection had hurt. Rather than keep his attention on the touching spectacle before him, Kennedy wheeled away, and managed to move silently and quickly down the hall, towards the exit and the gardens.
So he was not there to see the confusion as they all talked at the same time until Dewhurst collapsed suddenly. Ffoulkes was quick enough that Dewhurst didn't crash against the stair, and lowered him slowly, sitting with him. Dewhurst clung to him, frowning, as though trying not to pass out. The jubilant disposition was gone, and there was no more laughter. He looked up at Ffoulkes, lost, and then at the concerned people surrounding him. "Where's Archie?" he asked, suddenly, a note of panic in his voice.
"He was here a moment ago," Cassillis told him, with a show of nonchalance. "I'm sure he'll be around, later."
Dewhurst clenched his fists, clearly making an effort not to give in to hysteria, and beginning to shiver in the cold. Ffoulkes put his jacket around his shoulders, wrapping him in it protectively.
"I n-n-n-n-n-n-need to see Archie," Dewhurst insisted. "Please"
"You should return to your bed," Sebastian was instructing, solicitously. "You aren't ready for all this excitement; it's exhausted you."
Nor did he witness Sir Andrew separating himself from the group to come in search of him. If he had, he might have selected a less obvious place in which to conceal himself. Instead, he walked briskly, trying to work off his frustration and irritation in as dignified a manner as he might try. The Scottish season, summer largely indistinguishable from winter, or spring, or autumn, was as rainy as ever, but he took some comfort in the vicissitude.
It was unreasonable to feel unwanted, and while he had initially considered himself justified in his envy, he was brought up short. Dewhurst had forgiven his friends for abandoning him in Paris; hadn't he, himself, forgiven Hornblower for abandoning him in the boat during the raid on /Papillon/ and all he had subsequently suffered? Was it any different? Blakeney and Ffoulkes had no more known of Dewhurst's fate than Hornblower had known of his, and Hornblower had his duty just as the Scarlet Pimpernel and his League had their cause.
He was behaving like a spoiled brat. A spoiled /aristocratic/ brat!
He turned down a short path and some movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention. Using the shelter of a wild holly bush, grown beyond all control, he took a glance at who might be out in this ungodly weather. The tall frame, broad shoulders and wide Inverness cape and hat, revealed his pursuer as Sir Andrew and Kennedy fervently hoped hat if he was indeed being hunted that the wilderness down here was sufficient to conceal him.
The garden quickly turned into a dead end; an enclosure of trees, which he could hardly begin to stumble through, surrounded a cracked and leaf-strewn paving with a flooded pond and dirty sundial, which was not likely to have seen the sun often enough to do it's office. Kennedy suspected that this had once been a very pretty garden, but he was certainly cut off - even the trellis archway had collapsed too much for him to get around it with dignity.
What did Sir Andrew want with him, anyway?
Well, whatever it was, he supposed, he would probably deserve it. If Blakeney was the Scarlet Pimpernel and Sir Andrew one of the most trusted members of the League, then they certainly weren't the shallow fools that the world considered them. He had been too unconscious to know the finer details, but to get him out of Robespierre's mansion had shown a courage and cleverness that must be at least equal to that of Anthony and Walker. He couldn't even call them fools when they failed to recognise him. Neither had been close for long enough to see those features which might differentiate him from Dewhurst, and after ten years, there was no telling how Dewhurst might appear, anyway.
The blow he had delivered Ffoulkes on their previous meeting had not been the controlled insult of a gentleman spoiling for a duel. Admiral Halliwell was right; if Sir Andrew wanted to horsewhip him, then he would deserve it. If he was challenged, he would also have to refuse and appear the coward. Somehow he hoped for a beating - that he could withstand more easily than the slur to his character.
"Lieutenant?" Kennedy turned. Well, Sir Andrew /had/ made good time. Either he had been lucky or he knew the grounds much better than Kennedy did. Probably both.
Kennedy couldn't feel much lower - now he had time to contemplate matters, he was ashamed of himself. Sir Andrew towered above him, quite dry in his large overcoat and hat and Kennedy stood in his faded sea-going jacket, not even his second best shore-going rig. He had not retrieved his coat or hat on the way out of the Castle, and was now soaked to the skin. He reflected that he must make a very fine sight in comparison.
There was nothing he could say that would come out right, so he waited for Ffoulkes to continue.
"Your cousin is asking for you," he informed Kennedy.
"Tony?" he asked, wanting to be sure /which/ cousin.
"He seemed a little panicked when he couldn't find you," Sir Andrew informed him, gently. "Doctor Sebastian is tending him, but I think he would like to be assured of your whereabouts."
Kennedy looked towards Culzean; his instinct was to run back to the house as fast as the slippery grass would permit, but he was also aware that such an instinct would be very wrong. Dewhurst had begun to view him in the same manner he had viewed Robespierre; as master and carer, and Kennedy didn't think he could bear to be the object of such twisted affection. However, his lack of response needed to be explained. "I will be at sea within the week," he announced. "Indeed, I am likely to be aboard /Seawitch/ within the next two or three days, and Tony must learn to do without me. I shall see him later.
Ffoulkes nodded, but Kennedy couldn't tell whether it was an acknowledgement or approval. Still, their previous encounter could not be politely ignored any longer.
"Sir Andrew - I must offer an apology-"
"I should apologise for my foolish blunder-" said Ffoulkes at the same time.
Both found themselves smiling awkwardly, but it was Sir Andrew who managed to say his piece first. "You're very alike to your cousin. Really - the similarity was such that it quite threw me, and Sir Percy. We had also recently learned of Lord Dewhurst's fate, and naturally felt considerably burdened with guilt and responsibility. Being introduced with so little preamble made my manners inexcusably clumsy."
Kennedy paused, embarrassed to be in receipt of an atonement when he was the one who should be offering explanation. Unfortunately the full truth would only offend Ffoulkes, and he did believe the gentleman to be sincere in what he said. "We are alike," he agreed. "And as far as we were able, we were close, too. I was taken captive myself not long after I learned of Dewhurst'sumaccident; I had never really thought about him until, like you, I discovered he may not be dead. The grief not acknowledged made a sudden appearance, and hearing his nameI should learn to control myself better when I am not in France!"
Ffoulkes smiled again. "He did tell us of some of your exploits as children; that you had often delighted in foxing your parents."
"Tony usually came off worst," Kennedy replied, unable to hide a grin. He took quite a spanking from my father once. We had planned our joke in advance and swapped clothes, then endeavoured to climb to the gillie's lookout. I fell out of the tree, and my father blamed the other 'me' for the mishap."
"I particularly recall a tale in which you had both so feared your fates that he was half way to Bath with your parents before he was discovered, while you remained in Exeter."
Kennedy couldn't help but laugh at that memory. "I was discovered considerably faster, I assure you." Why had he neglected his family for so long? He wondered. Although the disagreement between the three brothers had proven irreconcilable, there was no reason for him not to have made some effort towards contacting Cassillis, who had, after all, made the first steps of his way in the navy. He might have contacted the Duke of Exeter, whose mother had no part in the quarrel, and who remained on friendly terms with all her brothers.
Perhaps the freedom to choose his friends had some effect; perhaps his fraternal feelings for Hornblower had made him consider his blood relations rather redundant, especially when Hornblower's father had died. At that point, they could both consider themselves alone in the world, and it would be only natural for them to adopt each other as brothers.
Ffoulkes grew serious again. "If we had but known Tony survived, we would have acted. We have never left anyone behind: however hopeless or dangerous, and whatever the risk. Even if one of Percy's men only survives a few hours, we have always ensured those hours were spent as free men. We all knew the risks, just as we all knew Percy would return for us."
The note of pleading in his tone had its effect on Kennedy. "I have to concede that you acted rapidly enough when Tony was discovered," he said, without hesitating. "I think few rescue missions could have been accomplished so rapidly."
"But ten years too late," Ffoulkes mused. "I cannot express how I wish we had known sooner. What he must have been through and the greater part of that was my own fault."
Kennedy kept his knowledge of what his cousin had 'been through' to himself. Sir Andrew had graciously ignored the incident between them, and he doubted Dewhurst would want others to know of his shame. Certainly Kennedy fervently wished his own experiences were unknown. Ffoulkes offered his hand to the Lieutenant and Kennedy took it, pleased that he was having to reassess this gentleman, and some of the bitterness of Dewhurst's open affection for him was beginning to fade.
Even as Sir Andrew smiled again, he looked down and his eyes fixed on Kennedy's scarred wrist and calloused hand. He was working out that it was still entirely possible for Dewhurst and Kennedy to trade places with relative ease. "Very /few/ rescue missions," Kennedy emphasised with a half-smile of his own. The misery of the days following being drugged with Anthony's evil potion was a fresh memory, but one he could laugh about, now. And if Anthony had only told half the tale, then there were many good reasons to laugh.
"I seem to have a great deal to apologise for," Sir Andrew grinned. "Perhaps I might start with 'I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant /Kennedy'/."
"Likewise, Sir Andrew," he returned, and was able to mean it.
"Perhaps we should return to the house; it's getting rather damp out here," Ffoulkes suggested, and indicated Kennedy before him. They were not in any particular hurry, and Kennedy began to wonder what he had been so upset about in the first place. Perhaps he had just taken Dewhurst's experience too personally; much of it mirrored his own, after all, but at least he had not had the dubious privilege of personal attention nor was he under any suspicion of holding useful information as a mere midshipman.
"So why had you taken Tony's place at Robespierre's manor?" Sir Andrew asked. "A distraction? To give him more time to escape? That would be a tremendous risk."
Kennedy paused, aware that his intention to assassinate the Frenchman was not a subject for polite discussion. Neither was Sir Andrew likely to be sympathetic to his point of view, since from what he understood, both Ffoulkes and Blakeney had got close enough in circumstances that favoured such a killing themselves. Neither they, nor anybody else in the League, had taken the opportunity that Kennedy had attempted to create.
"Something of that nature," he murmured.
"This belongs to you, I believe," Ffoulkes continued, taking an item from his pocket. It was a slender packet, wrapped in a gentleman's handkerchief, and Kennedy felt the familiar weight of the knife he had planned to use for the attack. He had not yet managed to replace it, and was grateful that he would not have to trouble himself with such a task before he rejoined /Seawitch/.
"Aye, sir," he acknowledged. He replaced the knife in its sheath on his arm, but he did not like the way it comforted him to have it there. Its absence had worried him enough for him to be determined to replace it; that did not feel like a good sign.
Still, if Sir Andrew was trying to tell him that he understood his intentions, and if this was a discrete mark of approval, then so be it. So far as Kennedy was concerned, there was no need to mention the subject again. However, Ffoulkes did accompany him to look in on Dewhurst. Whatever panic he had experienced in being unable to find his cousin seemed to have faded, and he was sleeping peacefully. In his hand, he still held onto the crumpled drawing of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
_CHAPTER TEN: THE MADNESS OF THE EIGHTH EARL OF CASSILLIS_
There were many advantages to being a spy: rescuing long-lost
cousins, foiling dangerous alliances that would bring ruin to
civilised society, redeeming oneself having accidentally killed
your captain, and having an Admiral willing to put himself out
for a mere lieutenant were just a few that Kennedy could think
of in the split-seconds' time he had. He was sure that Anthony
could think of a thousand more and reel them off in his superior,
all-knowing way, but on the top of his list would seem to be the
permission to enter any building, any room within that building,
and addressing whomsoever he wished in whatever manner suited
Anthony burst into the drawing room, shattering the momentum of quiet conversation and the game of backgammon between Cassillis and Blakeney. "Kennedy!" he roared at the top of his voice (although his quarry was perhaps only ten feet away). "We have a problem!"
Had he been a man on whom Kennedy could rely to identify a 'problem', then he might have sprung into instant action, demanding to know what must be done, and then going about it with no hesitation at all. However, since it was Anthony, he was inclined merely to raise an eyebrow and wait for him to elucidate.
"Monsieur Antoine!" Blakeney exclaimed.
"Who? Oh, of course - bugger Monsieur Antoine. Kennedy! Robespierre's on his way hereon a ship."
From his place by the fire, Dewhurst made a frightened noise and dropped his glass. His perpetual guardian, Sir Andrew, immediately went to comfort and reassure him - Kennedy wasn't entirely sure that it was good for Dewhurst to have somebody always hovering about, ready and waiting to help in whatever tiny way he could. It would do nothing for Dewhurst's independence or confidence.
"Anthony - how do you know?" Kennedy asked.
"I've been having him watched, of course," Anthony told him. "I'm a spy - it's what I do! Anyway, never mind all that; the /Jasmine/'s bringing prisoners for exchange at Leith, then once that's attended to, she'll find reason to move into the bay here. I imagine Robespierre will come ashore; try to negotiate for Lord Dewhurst, and when that fails, he'll attack Culzean from the sea. We need to get the /Seawitch/ back here unless you want this castle in rubble around you!"
"How long?" Blakeney demanded.
"The /Jasmine/ will be at Leith by this time tomorrow. Then probablytwo days to here, since she's a slow vessel; but we've less than three days. We considered that Robespierre might go ashore and come up here by road, but I've arranged to have the ship so carefully watched that he won't get chance. My guess is, she'll come in here under flag of truce, and once we're in the range of her guns, she'll hoist colours."
"Archie?" asked Dewhurst, frightened.
Kennedy was rather relieved that /somebody/ was asking his opinion. Anthony tended to take over whatever situation he was in, and Blakeney was so obviously used to being the one in charge that he'd fallen into the habit again. Of all of them, Kennedy's was the authority that would be officially recognised, and so far he had been pushed out. "I intend no disrespect to my cousin, but why would Robespierre be so desperate to get Tony back? He's an English aristo, and a younger son. There are better hostages, if that's his intent, and even so, why would we willingly relinquish a hostage we have in our possession to be held against ourselves? None of it makes any sense, Anthony."
There was a long silence. "Well, I don't know /why/, Kennedy - why does Robespierre do /anything/?" Anthony spread his hands in an exaggerated gesture of ignorance.
"Tony? Do you know?" Kennedy asked, gently. "Did he make you his confidante?"
Dewhurst shook his head. "N-n-n-n-not that I would know," he whispered.
"All right - /Seawitch/. The /Daydream/ could catch her easily, probably by tomorrow; and /Seawitch/ is a good sailer; she could beat the /Jasmine/ or at least not be far behind."
"Only we don't have the /Daydream/," Blakeney said, neutrally. Whatever quarrel they had would be put aside for their common causes; the defence of Culzean and the protection of Lord Dewhurst. Kennedy was relieved that they could find this ground to meet as allies and work together despite differences. He had to admit that Blakeney and Ffoulkes couldn't have behaved better towards his cousin; towards both his cousins, actually, and whatever his personal feelings on the matter, to try and separate them would hurt Dewhurst more than the League.
"She's in the cove below the castle," Kennedy responded, casually.
Anthony openly smirked; taking his usual tactless victory in the confession Kennedy was now forced to make. Blakeney and Ffoulkes were glaring at him, and certainly he couldn't defend the pettiness of his actions in stealing the vessel. "You stole the /Daydream/?" Blakeney demanded.
"Anthony and I needed to escape the safe-house before you realised you'd rescued Lt. Kennedy instead of Lord Dewhurst," Kennedy explained. "And Anthony was right - if you weren't going to try and chase Tony and we needed to rendezvous with /Seawitch/, we needed a fast ship. The /Daydream/ is /very/ fast."
Eyes turned to Anthony, and Kennedy took a sip of port to hide his smile. The spy's victory had quickly turned sour since nothing he could say, now, would convince them that the theft had been /Kennedy's/ thought, and his alone. "Oh, you-dammit!" Anthony spluttered.
"And why should we trust Monsieur Antoine?" Ffoulkes enquired, in his soft way. "He's revealed as a spy; we've all heard that."
"Monsieur Antoine?" Kennedy asked him. This was not a time for them to begin arguing between themselves so he needed to demonstrate trust in the man, and while he was aware that Anthony's scruples would see any of them sold down the river for his cause, the man was genuinely dedicated to British interests. So far, British interests seemed to include the retention of Lord Dewhurst, therefore Kennedy was not about to upset the apple cart. "Has it ever occurred to you to find a less obvious identity?"
"I need /some/ way to mark my work; and my dearest friends - such as your good self - need /some/ way to find me!" Anthony told him. Kennedy gave his hurt expression no credit at all. "He spoke such poor English that he was above suspicion!"
"Anthony; you're a /British/ spy - these are /British/ men! Why pretend to be French?"
"Really, Kennedy - you're hopeless - you completely lack finesse!"
"Can we send Walker with the /Daydream/?" Kennedy interrupted, before Anthony could begin an impromptu lesson on the finer points of acquiring contacts and joining secret societies. "With Sir Percy's permission, of course. Cass - just in case the wind becomes too contrary, perhaps a fast courier to Leith could take a message for Captain Pellew, too?"
"Aye - that's easy enough," Cassillis agreed, and moved to the desk where he could begin to compose a message. Anthony joined him, penning orders for /Seawitch/.
"Tony - I know you don't want to think about the last years; but please try to remember why Robespierre might want you back. You can tell any of us quietly, later, if that's what you'd prefer, but anything that can be used against him will help. Can you do that?"
Dewhurst was pale and shaking, but he nodded his head in agreement. His strength showing, again, and Kennedy managed to smile. After another tenure as a secret agent, preparing for a more open, honest battle seemed refreshing, even if it was coming directly toKennedy tried not to let the impact of realisation show. It was coming directly to his /home/! However, he couldn't deny such powerful motivation.
"Cass; we mustn't rely on /Seawitch/ to get here before /Jasmine/ - too much could go wrong. I vaguely remember my father saying that the Eighth Earl was convinced that the English were going to attack Culzean from the sea, during the rebellion."
"Grandfather was mad as a hatter, Archie," Cassillis replied, not looking up from his work. "He was also convinced that the Countess was one of the Sidhe and simply went on a long walk for seventeen years."
"Wellyes," agreed Kennedy, unable to deny that their common ancestor had not been sailing with a complete set of running rigging. "But he did make preparations to defend the bay from the-" he smiled at the others in the room "-marauding English heathens, did he not?"
"Aye," Cassillis confirmed, but his expression didn't inspire much hope. "He purchased a dozen or so cannons from the Royal Foundry. For some reason they weren't to be put on the ships, so he had his agent procure them. He thought it was truly hilarious to be using Royal Foundry guns against them! 'Course, they were never used. They'll have rusted away by now."
Kennedy was shaking his head. "They were the last of the old brass canons to be made! Ships had started carrying iron, instead, so the Foundry sold off the last batches of brass. They don't rust, Cass! They can probably still fire; where are they?"
Cassillis considered. "Well; most of them are still on the battery facing the bay; you can just see them from the sea. My own father brought three into the house forwell, decoration, actually; to replace the armour, I suppose. But we've no ordnance; no ammunition for them."
"Damn," muttered Kennedy under his breath. He would have thought it easier to find shot and have a problem working out how to deliver it, not the other way around. In fact, it was rather annoying that Anthony (the supposed professional) and Blakeney (who he was still inclined to blame for this whole mess, besides being the Scarlet Pimpernel) were not contributing any ideas to the dilemma. When he looked up to challenge them, he realised that Anthony was looking at him measuringly, and Blakeney apparently thought it more diplomatic not to take over from him. It was rather disconcerting that Anthony was using this as an opportunity to test his inventiveness.
"Regular pistol or rifle shot sewn into canvas can act as grapeshot," he replied absently; that was even done aboard ship when they ran out. In fact, he now recalled himself and Bush in the main ballroom demonstrating Samana bay with one of the canons that stood in an alcove, in place of an old suit of armour that had no doubt been sold to pay off debts. Ah, yes. Of course - Samana bay. "Cass - is the blacksmith's forge nearby?"
"Near enough," he replied. "I have a lot of writing to do, it seems. If you lookactually; Tony - why don't /you/ look in library for some literature on great guns? I have enough so the dimensions for ammunition should be in there, somewhere."
Kennedy hid a smile. Yes; Tony should be as involved in his own defence as it was possible to be. Culzean was riddled with priest holes, so Robespierre would literally have to tear the castle down stone by stone to find him when the time came. Blakeney and Ffoulkeswell, they could either remain with Tony and Cass, or help him, as they chose.
Maxim Robespierre: both despised and loved by his people; thought
a hero and a traitor, a mighty sword of justice and a bloodthirsty
rodent; he had been a tower of strength and a paranoid wreck;
he was clever and cunning, yet almost afraid of his own intellect.
He had been the incorruptible for so long that while decay did
not seem to tarnish him, the Midas touch was it's own undoing.
The fall of the Revolutionary forces; the bitterness of the people and the rise of a new star (in the shape of Bonaparte) had forced him to retreat the public eye and hide away in the modest estates procured with the profits made from the Revolution - estates he had settled on so quickly at the start of the Revolution that many might think they had been his prior to his career in Paris. Oh; he had not taken more than his rightful share; many might even feel that he was /entitled/ to more, or that some shred of his morality compelled him not to cheat his nation out of its francs as well as its upper classes. He was not a greedy man; money was not everything, nor had he ever considered it to be so.
Timing was everything; including when to retire.
And when to return.
His relationship with Bonaparte had been excellent, until uncomfortable information concerning his private life reached the Emperor's ears. Robespierre had become more philosophical about injustice and rumour, having witnessed first had the executions of good men beside evil men, and children who were too young to be either, so did not attempt to plead or bargain when dismissed from Napoleon's attention. The clear accusations against him could not be said to be entirely untrue, but the truth was such that any /implication/ made for more solid evidence in the eyes of those who knew him, rather than less.
Robespierre had lost nearly everything. His estates brought him a modest living, no more; which he was pleased to have and not dissatisfied with - he reminded himself that he had never been greedy. However, he had once retained hopes for his future - serving his country as before, although perhaps not in the same way; this time from behind the scenes. From behind Bonaparte, and so not exposed to the criticisms or pressures of leadership. If Napoleon failed, then he was a small, anonymous figure within his great shadow and yet he would still be able to bask in some reflected glory should all go well. The gold gilt on the back of the throne was quite as impressive as that on the front, it simply wasn't on display.
But it was all gone. A future serving his beloved France and her people; any hope for power or influence; a rightful place as one of the greatest men of his time. His name would be forgot, or he would but be the hard, cruel blade of the Revolution that brought a once-proud nation to its knees before its hated enemies. He knew how he was considered, now. People spoke of the Incorruptible Robespierre - of his early devotion and fervour; his great cause. Then they spoke of his obsessions and insecurities; how power had put so much gold upon his plate that he starved to death and killed his children with a mere embrace. He had become Midas. He was not corrupt, but rather cursed.
However, he might have borne this latest misfortune if it were not for the loss of his only friend.
The English prisoner.
Chauvelin had brought the dazed, wretched creature before him when the Scarlet Pimpernel first became such a plague upon him. At first, he viewed Dewhurst as little more than a valuable commodity; Chauvelin had been clever to fake his death, so there was no reason for the Pimpernel to return for him, and they could take their time over breaking him. Chauvelin's brute force and painful methods had brought no results in the past, on other men, and so Robespierre had decided to break him in a different way. The man was an aristocrat; a rich fop and pathetic as he trembled before the Incorruptible.
Dewhurst had been subject to relatively little pain at first; Robespierre had little taste for physical torture. However; he must learn his place, learn humiliation and humility - learn to be grateful for that which he /did/ have! Robespierre therefore allowed some his guests (those who had such leanings) to amuse themselves with the boy as they chose; the only stricture was that they not cause him too much damage; he did not want the prisoner beaten, nor was he starved or forced to live in squalor.
Then Robespierre had discovered the strength beneath that fragile little shell. Dewhurst had begged, pleaded, cried and sobbed. He had answered every question Robespierre asked; his name, questions of his family, his connections, his favourite colour, the name of his tailor and what brand of port he preferred. But of the Pimpernel, Robespierre learned nothing. The man cried shamelessly; no pride left, humiliation and humility all that remained. Besides this loyalty.
Robespierre considered that the Scarlet Pimpernel must be a great man indeed to have inspired such a level of devotion, because nothing could make the man reveal the slightest information about him or his network. Then he /did/ have Dewhurst beaten. He had him starved and subjected to every depravity and cruelty he could think of. He used experts who would leave no permanent mark. However - there was always his ultimate use, to dangle him openly before the Pimpernel in order to goad the elusive gentleman and lure him into a trap, therefore it was essential Dewhurst be in tact at the end of it.
Robespierre knew something of control, for all that the Revolution had escaped his, and he knew something of people. He had professionals work on Dewhurst, and the Englishman never realised that he was relatively little damaged because they kept him in a permanent state of terror, and Robespierre always ensuring that he, personally, tended the man, and was kind to him, reasonable and treated his injuries. Perhaps this show of reason would persuade Dewhurst to return the regard, and be reasonable in return.
Yet it didn't work, and rather than admire a man who could inspire such loyalty, Robespierre began to envy him. He knew it was a foolish thing; he knew that there were more important matters he ought to attend to, but one day, suddenly, nothing would sate his jealousy but to have a man so equally devoted to him. To the Incorruptible. Dewhurst was capable of such great devotion; to plead and weep so openly and yet still not take any one action which might spare him further torment. Like the Revolution, it slipped out of Robespierre's control, and he wanted Lord Dewhurst's devotion as the Scarlet Pimpernel seemed to have it.
He removed Dewhurst to his estates; pleasant surroundings - a charming little village in which the inhabitants were so far removed from the antics of the Revolution that so long as Robespierre was generous and gentle with them they didn't care what happened in Paris or which concerned affairs that were so far removed from their own little rural community. So, he was indeed a benevolent overseer - charity for the poorer villagers, praise for the generosity of those richer. It was his ideal; a proper community of mutual aid, in which the criminal was swiftly dealt with (although one must ask the pigs how such were disposed of. Hogs would eat anything) and the victim comforted and supported; the honest man given his due and the cheats and liars stripped of their positions. Ideal. Perfect.
Robespierre reflected that he had done an extraordinarily good job of breaking Dewhurst; too good a job. The man scarcely spoke to him; dared to ask for nothing, and dared to refuse nothing that was offered. Robespierre had him exercise every day, insisted on his cleanliness and being properly dressed indoors and out. In order to maintain his well-educated manner (although Robespierre didn't care much for his aristocratic etiquette, he had to saynobody was perfect, after all), he treated him with weekly trips to the ballet and opera, on walks about the lovely local countryside.
Dewhurst surprised him with his obedience, and would listen to Robespierre's views without disagreeing; just nodding and apparently assenting. With the fall of the Revolution, and his own retirement, he had hoped to revive something of Lord Dewhurst - the defiance and fierceness of his loyalty to Blakeney should have made him an excellent companion with whom to enjoy debate and discussion.
But while Robespierre was an expert at bringing people under control, he was not so skilled in bringing out their independence or resurrecting that which he had suppressed. Eventually, he began to realise that he had destroyed the man, and all he could do was persist with his attempts to bring him out. He had even asked the advice, recently, of an old informant - a discrete gentleman called Trevellian - what might be done, and had demonstrated to him the extent of Dewhurst's obedience and repression. His contact could offer little assistance, however, having never had much to do with the Revolution besides the profit he had made, himself.
Although Dewhurst had been broken down into what was left, Robespierre had learned to value him, rather as a single man values his dog; a lesser friend to be maintained, groomed, taken out and paraded. He was company of a sort; a companion
or rather, he was better than nothing and nobody.
Robespierre supposed he was even fond of Dewhurst. Oh, but he must be to use what little remained of his influence to have the /Jasmine/ take him to hated Britain in order to retrieve him.
He no longer had any interest in the Pimpernel or the League. He didn't even care how or why Blakeney had discovered Dewhurst lived and retrieved him, but Robespierre was quite prepared to be convinced that he was the only one who knew Dewhurst well enough to adequately look after him. The man's past had been eradicated, and he would be uncomfortable and edgy without his reliable routine, without the rules that had been laid down to ensure he took adequate care of himself. While Robespierre could not bring out Dewhurst's crushed personality, he did know what his methods could accomplish and the proper way to treat such a man. How to praise, how to punish, when to use cruelty and when to be kind.
What Robespierre refused to consider was that he was lonely, and now, Dewhurst's quiet acknowledgements and insincere agreements were the only time he was likely ever to hear a note of love in another human voice - however much that love was enforced by fear.
And under those illusions, Robespierre left Leith for the seat of Dewhurst's cousin, Richard Kennedy; the Earl of Cassillis.
_CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE BATTLE OF CULZEAN BAY_
It was not much of a surprise that /Daydream/ should beat both
/Seawitch/ and /Jasmine/ to Culzean Bay. Kennedy hoped that there
were no such instructions as 'abandon the castle' being directed
towards him. Pellew could make such an order to him, and he would
have to obey it. Blakeney and Ffoulkes could see to Dewhurst's
safety, and that of Cassillis, but certainly the Earl would not
abandon his home, and Kennedy could think of nothing that might
persuade him. Even a plea from Dewhurst was likely to fail and
he was not quite so confident of his cousin's good opinion as
to attempt force or any more subtle abduction.
/Daydream/ docked far beneath his field of vision, and then sailed into the cove. It was just the right size for the yacht (or a smuggling vessel) to sit in comfortably, entirely hidden from view...and excise men. Kennedy even managed to smile. Every great house with coastline acquired the odd case of brandy or bolt of silk, but he reflected that it was a good thing that he and Cassillis were basically honest, or it should not take very long, at all, to rebuild Culzean's fortune.
"I want you to hide, Tony," he said to Dewhurst, in his 'Lieutenant's' voice. "I don't doubt your willingness or courage to stand and defend yourself, but you're still not strong. If I'm ordered direct to Leith - I want you to go with Sir Percy and Sir Andrew. Try and persuade Cassillis to go with you."
"M-m-m-makes a change, you wanting me to g-g-g-go with Percy."
Kennedy fixed him with a glare. "For god's sake, Tony, must you recover your sense of humour?"
Tony grinned - the sight nearly reduced Kennedy to sentimental tears as it was the same incorrigible, mischievous, boyish grin he could remember from their childhood. He further realised that his cousin would probably recover if they could just get through this crisis.
He opened the door himself to let the courier in, so they might prepare according to whatever orders he had been given. Anthony hovered around him, but whether the spy likewise expected instruction, or whether he was waiting to base his own plans according to Kennedy's orders, the Lieutenant was not sure. He knew too much about being a spy, and could not rely on Anthony to be faithful to him, however much he had helped so far. What Anthony's motives might be, he couldn't fathom, and if he were merely obeying orders, then what could Halliwell's motives be? England had done without Lord Dewhurst for a decade; he had no national value, so far as Kennedy could tell.
But the man at the door was no courier.
"Good afternoon, sir!" Matthews said, knuckling his forehead respectfully. Styles stood and grinned behind him. "With respects from Captain Pellew, he 'eard you had guns that needed crew."
"Oh, Matthews, you are a sight for sore eyes!" he exclaimed. "Yes, indeed! We have a battery over- looking the bay, gear that passes for ammunition, and in a couple of hours, we'll have a target." He led the men through the hall; it was not quite the quickest way around, but if they could observe the layout of the house, then it was a better way of retreat should they have to abandon the battery - the coast road was exposed from the bay and men would be cut down too easily by that route. "They're brass, Matthews - only a danger if they get too hot, but I don't think any battle is going to last long enough for that."
"No, sir - er - Mr Hornblower went up the other way; wanted to see how it looked from the road."
"Thank you, Matthews," although he was really grateful for the /warning/ that the Commander was here than the information itself. Probably something Matthews had himself deduced.
"Captain Pellew has been delayed by the admiralty, but /Jasmine/ was still in dock, off-loading exchange prisoners when we left - he said he would follow as soon as he can, sir. /Seawitch/ is faster than that Frog, though."
"It's all going to depend on the circumstances, Matthews. Let's just hope for the best and prepare for the worst."
Matthews went about inspecting the canons with the enthusiasm of a true expert. "Oh, sir - it's a long time since I saw ought this fine!"
Most of the hands that Pellew had sent were old and experienced. The ignorant observer might have sneered that this group of grandfathers had been disposed of by a vain captain, but nobody at Culzean was so badly informed. These were men who recalled the days of brass guns; the peculiarities of serving them and the danger when they over-heated. Pellew had sent those most useful to his Lieutenant.
"Well, Matthews, I suppose you can at least be indulged in firing them," Kennedy smiled. "Most retained at private estates have been disabled; my grandfather - the eighth earl - kept them active to ward off the English redcoats who sought to murder the rightful king!"
"Aye - and kept them well polished so the rest of the world thought he was simply following the fashion for having old guns in the house," Cassillis added with his own smile. If Kennedy didn't know better, he would have said that his cousin was enjoying himself.
"Well, sir," Matthews addressed with a respectful salute for the present Earl. "T'were all long enough ago for me to say that I reckon I would have liked your grandfather, sir."
"I believe it would be mutual," Cassillis said.
Kennedy felt truly honoured at the dedication of the men. They had precious little knowledge of what they were going to be fighting - and perhaps dying - for, yet they went about the battery with the same manner as they would if defending their ship. He gave over their direction to Hornblower and excused himself to ensure that his family and guests were safe. Thankfully the priest-holes had been maintained and as a King's officer, it made Kennedy smile to think of how many generations of his family had been rebels! It wouldn't surprise him if the turnings in the grave started an earthquake!
Perhaps quarter of an hour later, one of the tenant's sons came running to the castle to inform them that a ship had been seen approaching, and about two hours after that, the graceful French corvette came calmly gliding into the bay. She didn't hoist her colours, immediately or make any aggressive moves, and Kennedy began to worry. He wished he could have a lookout covering the coast road, but it was a near-certain death sentence if there was a good marksman on /Jasmine/, or they could afford to use a case of shot.
/Jasmine/ was a fine sight, though, gliding into the bay on calmer waters than were usually found in the channel, and tacking leisurely so she sat below Culzean castle, facing the sea. She made a very pretty picture, from the battery, and Kennedy thought he should ask Cassillis whether they might commission a painting - perhaps of /Seawitch/ - sitting in that very spot. Did the captain of that ship have any idea, though, what he was dealing with? Certainly this part of Scotland was practically deserted; some tenant farmers and a village five miles away were all of the Earl's domain, and the estates, should they recover, would provide only a modest living for an aristocrat - certainly not like some of the grandiose seats in the south of England.
However, they did have the guns; they had whatever the blacksmith and his apprentices had managed to hammer together as ammunition. There was plenty of powder, from that left from the insane old Earl's fight against the English that had never taken place; the stores aboard /Daydream/, and that which they had brought from Leith along with some of the finest gunners in the King's Navy. Did /Jasmine/ know she was up against all that, even if Culzean was in no position to gather reinforcements?
There was no way to read the captain's mind. There wasn't even a way they could exchange signals, unless he cared to raise a white flag. His colours went up half-heartedly. This ship had crept in quietly, like an intruder closing a door after his discrete entrance, not proudly, like a man-o'war ready to do battle!
"Run out, but hold your fire," Hornblower ordered. It was unlikely the tarnished brass would be any more noticeable than iron, and Kennedy wished they had been given enough time to polish them. The sight of such armament gleaming in the rare Scottish sunlight would be a magnificent one.
"They seem to find our efforts amusing, Mr Hornblower," Kennedy informed him, looking through the glass at the French crew, who had laughed at their gesture and were tardy and irregular about running out their own armament.
"Probably think they were disabled for decoration, sir, and that we're bluffing," Matthews said cheerfully. "Not to mention the state of your army!"
A row of toothless, grey-haired and wrinkled seamen (along with Sir Andrew and Styles) grinned up at their two young commanders. Kennedy laughed at the thought, and knew he would rather have these men than more spry youngsters.
He returned to the glass. "Looks like they're preparing to fire," he warned Hornblower, handing him the telescope. The men prepared themselves at his words, and awaited their orders.
A few seconds more and, "Fire!"
Their offensive came just before the Frenchman, and when the smoke cleared, Kennedy saw the ship in disarray. They really had caught them by surprise. "Reload!" Hornblower was shouting, but a great crash of ordnance had them all ducking behind the fortifications when /Jasmine/ responded with a clumsy broadside of her own.
Movement to one side caught his attention; Blakeney was releasing a blue bundle attached to a spar of wood that faced the bay. A moment later, the Cross of St. Andrew streamed in the wind and Kennedy felt heartened and warmed. There was no feeling quite so magnificent as defending one's home, and the flag showed clearly that the French were fighting that spirit which stood on the fields with the Bruce and Wallace. Ultimately - a spirit of freedom that would never be quashed; not by the English redcoats; not by Spanish Armadas; and certainly not by the goddamn French!
The balls from /Jasmine/ crashed into the cliff far below them; not nearly elevated enough, and their gunners had failed to fire on the up-roll. Even the bay and its unpredictable currents were fighting the intruder.
They took another solid barrage from the battery that had the seamen cheering, and while the French shot higher the second time, it was into the fat bulge of cliffs below them, creating a blackened scar and cracked dent across them. Stalwart, the canons were reloaded, but /Jasmine/ seemed unwilling to make another attempt.
"They can't elevate 'em that much, or they'll recoil right through the deck!" Matthews laughed.
The next few minutes were tense.
"What is she waiting for?" Kennedy mused aloud. "We're just about evenly matched for firepower; she could head further in, out of the reach of the battery and easily take Culzean by boarding. We must be grossly outnumbered, even if we do hold the high ground."
"They won't /know/ they're outnumbered. That we had any way of defending ourselves must have been a surprise. Who knows what other surprises we have in store?" Hornblower's tone was neutral. He was doing his duty by defending Culzean with all his skill and ingenuity, and seemed willing for them to enter into a kind of truce, like the one that would exist between them during battle aboard ship. Both fighting for the same thing, therefore they would be allies, since to take the quarrel into the fight could condemn the entire ship.
/Huh/, Kennedy realised suddenly, /it's actually Horatio's quarrel; not mine/. That would merit further thought at a more appropriate time.
Why the /Jasmine/ had stopped firing remained a mystery, but they didn't have the ammunition to keep at it if the ship had ceased. Not without some better chance of destroying her, at least.
It was the staccato whine that warned them. Hornblower was already ordering the men to the floor, and a shell exploded significantly to the right of the battery. Mad the eighth earl might have been, but his fortifications held. They did when the second shell hit, and Hornblower ordered them to fire down at the /Jasmine/ again before the launch could be re-loaded. It was a much longer time before the next shell struck, but it did hit somewhat closer.
"I have a plan," Hornblower announced. "It would only take one shell to land in the powder and we're finished. The /Daydream/ has a couple of small boats she uses as lifeboats. If we fill one with powder and float her out to /Jasmine/; get under her hull, somehow, it'll show her we're serious about defending ourselves."
"Except that the current favours drifting into the cove, not out of it," Kennedy pointed out, trying not to sound over-critical. He knew that his best chance of having Culzean remain in one piece was leaving Hornblower's brilliant mind to work on the problem; he didn't want the Commander sulking and refusing to explain an idea that might work.
"The drift is all the way around?" Hornblower asked. "There's no drift-"
"Except from the other side," Kennedy confirmed, interrupting in his eagerness to be helpful. He was trying too hard, and this was hardly the time or place to make any sort of approach to Hornblower, or worry about the consequences. Hornblower was not the sort of man to allow the French any advantage anywhere in the United Kingdom - and especially not at the expense of someone he seemed to like as much as Cassillis, all for the sake of disliking his cousin. However, Hornblower seemed too caught up in his planning to have noticed.
"I know the approach well," Sir Andrew told them. He was sweating and looked quite filthy, having loaned his considerable strength to the guns. If it were not for his natural tendency towards gentleness, he would have done well in the army.
"Powder is the only thing we aren't short of," Kennedy agreed, casting a nervous eye over their ample stock.
Another shell struck, but still the battery stood firm. Sooner or later the French were going to get lucky, and he ordered the guns reloaded and run out once more, trying to pace the firing so the brass might cool a little between shots.
"If you would, Sir Andrew," Hornblower invited, taking the execution of his plan upon himself. "Styles! With us!"
"Ffoulkes!" Kennedy called, instinctively addressing the man most likely to listen to him without question rather than making any more problems with Hornblower or put Styles in a position where he might have to choose between Kennedy's advice and his loyalty to the Commander. Ffoulkes turned, questioningly. "Try and get the boat under the starb'd quarter," Kennedy continued. "That's her most vulnerable spot, since a ball would have trouble reaching it that low in the water - an explosion boat would put an end to her fight."
"Under the starboard quarter," Sir Andrew confirmed, following Hornblower towards the quickest way to the cove and the /Daydream/.
They loaded the boat with every incendiary they could find.
Apparently the earl had a visit from smugglers not so long ago,
and the case of brandy that had been left was loaded aboard the
boat along with explosives, powder and whatever was left aboard
/Daydream/. "If Percy ever found out what I did with his
port" Sir Andrew lamented, shaking his head as that, too,
was added to the boat.
"So long as you don't tell Cassillis what happened to his brandy!" Hornblower returned, with a smile.
"A cryin' bloody shame is what it is, sir!" Styles added as half a bottle of rum discovered in the captain's quarters of /Daydream/ was splashed over the barrels.
"Cass hates brandy, anyway," Ffoulkes grinned, apparently enjoying this brief revival of the League, almost as much as Hornblower was enjoying being in the thick of things again; not leaving matters to the men he ordered. Only the fear of losing his ship had prevented Hornblower being as active in such situations as he might like to be; being the Commander aboard /Seawitch/, although signifying the loss of his own ship, was something he was rather enjoying; some final years in which he could act rather than watch others do so, and this - being truly in the centre of the action! It was what he lived for! Poor Bush, stuck aboard /Seawitch/ as she attempted to catch /Jasmine/, the corvette having had some hours head start.
Just a couple more years, and then he would want another command, he thought. Just a couple more years where he might take orders, but which orders he might carry out as he saw fit. Pellew trusted him at least that far, and he still learned from the older man. He would still be young for his own command in those couple of years, and he would have this added experience; and all he had learned aboard Hotspur, and any mistakes he had made could be rectified. Yes, thought Hornblower as he loaded more bags of powder onto the boat, yes; he was ideally situated for the present.
Two armfuls of rockets were added, and some of those vicious little French shells which Blakeney carried in case /Daydream/ came under serious threat. The finer grained pistol powder - a very expensive part of the load, since it didn't take such quality to produce the crippling explosion they were hoping to create. Still, they had only filled half the boat - it would have to do as there was nothing left to put in, and they could time the fuse more finely, given that physical space. It also made rowing the boat around the cove easier.
The corvette's attention was fixed on the battery; they had given up on firing the great guns and were now concentrating on launching the shells; all of which seemed to hit something, but never quite the right target. There were a few very frightening moments when Hornblower thought their fears of the French getting a lucky strike on the powder might come to pass, but then the shell that had flown over the fortification and onto the battery came soaring back out, and exploded in midair, in a spectacular - but ultimately useless - display of light and fire.
The distraction was enough to get them into the right position, with the powerful rowing of Styles and Ffoulkes; how Hornblower envied that raw strength! They manoeuvred the boat for the current carefully. "A little more /this/ way," Ffoulkes hissed. Hornblower and Styles followed his directions without question; the man knew the bay much better than they did, having helped Blakeney steer /Daydream/ into the cove often enough when they would smuggle émigrés into the country. How strange, reflected Hornblower. He had always supposed them to be coming through Ireland, not Scotland, and although they did not all disembark at the same place, Cassillis had certainly had his valuable place within the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
"Perfect!" Ffoulkes said, admiringly as the current carried their little piece of devastation towards the corvette.
"Gonna get their starb'd quarter, sir," Styles said, approvingly. "Should cripple 'em sure enough!"
There was some panic from the corvette, and a few attempts to shoot at the boat, but the musket men were stopped by their superiors and no more shells hit Culzean. All of /Jasmine/'s attention was on the boat.
"They've no cannon at the quarter to defend that spot," Hornblower said, satisfied. "How did you know to aim there, Sir Andrew? I thought Sir Percy was the enthusiast."
"It was Lieutenant Kennedy's thought," he said. "He said it was vulnerable."
"I suppose it is at that," Hornblower replied, trying not to let the fact that it was his former friend who had offered the suggestion colour his viewpoint. He could hardly be surprised that he had seen fit to make the recommendation to Ffoulkes and not himself, however. "But under the bows is even less well defended over a much larger range, and equally likely to cripple the /Jasmine/. And he said the /Starboard/ quarter, not just 'the quarter'."
"Starboard quarter, he said," Sir Andrew replied. "Perhaps taking out the rudder would cripple her steering as well as her firepower and make the job easier for /Seawitch/."
Hornblower noticed that the panic on the corvette was reaching a truly frightening pitch, and felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. To aim for the rudder really did make more sense"But it won't necessarily take out the rudder from that angle; or if it does it would be more luck than anything else."
"An' difficult to aim at as there's no lanthorn there," Styles observed idly, pausing just before they lost sight of the corvette in getting back up to the Castle.
"There was on the larboard side," Sir Andrew observed, equally casually.
"No lanthorn to starb'd?" repeated Hornblower. "But that would mean-"
And he turned to look at /Jasmine/ just as their incendiary exploded. First the fireball engulfed the boat, and then there was an answering, larger explosion from /Jasmine/ herself as the ship's powder room was compromised and the entire corvette was engulfed in the ensuing ball of hot devastation. By the time Hornblower's eyes cleared, the vision of a burning ship was all there was to behold.
_CHAPTER TWELVE: THE LAST ENCOUNTER_
A/N - All the information in this chapter concerning the layout of French warships is fiction, so far as I'm aware.
Once he saw the boat launched, Kennedy ordered a final 'broadside'
into the enemy. It held off those shells for two or three minutes,
at any rate, and the fewer that were fired, the fewer risks there
were. It might also divert their attention from the boat for more
vital seconds. He considered in a moment of strange wonder, that
he really ought to find out what the landed version of a broadside
was - or was it not part of standard battery tactics to fire all
No matter. The boat seemed to be heading for the right part of the Frenchman and there was a gratifying panic on the deck. Two or three desperate musketeers were even firing on the small boat and risking an explosion that would certainly splinter the quarterdeck and send the deadly stakes flying in all directions. Less brave men chose to stop them. Others threw themselves overboard, but Kennedy knew they wouldn't get very far; the same lookout who had sent the boy with the message concerning /Jasmine/ would have also ensured that everybody in the region knew about the corvette, and there would be an eye kept out for French seamen. Neither was he worried about the cove beneath the Castle; any foolish enough to attempt to shelter there would soon be dealt with by the small crew of /Daydream/ now rescued and returned to their vesselor the occasional smuggler who used the cove to avoid excise men.
He ought to go inside himself, but he could not resist remaining on the battery; with St. Andrew's standard, to discover whether the plans in Trevellian's library were genuine. If he was wrong, then the corvette would be crippled; crippled enough that a few shots of grape would clear the decks and ensure that all their time was spent in trying to keep their ship afloat until /Seawitch/ could claim her. If the plans were accurate, then the magazine on French corvettes were kept near the waterline by the starboard quarter, and they wouldn't have to worry about /Jasmine/ or her vile passengers any more.
The resulting explosion was more than he could possibly have imagined. Kennedy flung himself to the floor of the battery, as close to the sea-facing wall as he possibly could as debris rained onto the battery itself and the great window in the doors to the battery shattered as some unidentified shard of wood speared it and skidded across the polished floor. The seamen taking shelter inside the house seemed as shocked as he was, but fortunately there were no casualties among them. Once he deemed it safe, Kennedy stood and went to the low wall, his hand protectively on one of the canons which had served them so well.
Below, the wreck of /Jasmine/ burned.
"What the hell-?" Cassillis and Dewhurst found themselves
ducking almost instinctively, although anything that could get
through the thick walls of Culzean would hardly be prevented on
its deadly course by such action.
Dewhurst, closer in the narrow confines of the network of priest-holes that lay within the architecture of the castle, looked out of the tiny spyhole; a small, deliberate flaw in the mortar; reinforced with lead, but which could be used to watch out by anybody in danger and hiding within these walls. "The ship is b-b-b-b-burning!" he spluttered.
"It doesn't answer for that almighty crash I heard!" the earl pointed out. "That came from downstairs!"
The secret door was activated from the outside, and Blakeney, looking pale, entered quietly.
"What was it?" Cassillis asked.
"What appears to be part of /Jasmine/'s bowsprit has just smashed through the battery door," he said, very much as Sir Percy. "/Jasmine/'s finished; so's the large window."
Cassillis straightened as much as the cramped quarters and his own disability would allow. "Prize money be damned," he stated, indignantly, "I'm going to make that boy pay for that glass!"
"Are we safe?" Dewhurst whispered, tentatively.
"I think so," Blakeney smiled.
They emerged rather less confidently than a man in his own home ought to, and helping each other down the stairs, paused to examine the long shard of wood; the remnants of rope and sail still smouldering on the cold stone floor, and the trail of tiny glass diamonds which were catching the light as a sparkling little trail on the missile. If it hadn't been for this spectacle, and the quiet-but-cheerful observation of the seamen, they might have moved immediately to the battery, and Blakeney wouldn't have seen the small, dark shape which ducked around the house.
Without thinking he pulled Dewhurst behind the nearest concealing item of furniture, forgetting the smaller man's fear, and Dewhurst cringed away from him.
"Sorry, Tony," he offered. He looked up again from behind their perch. "My god!"
"Get back into the priest-holes. You and Cassillis - quickly!"
Cassillis had no time to protest as he was ushered by the Scarlet Pimpernel back to their shelter. "Look after Tony," Blakeney instructed quickly. "I have to warn Kennedy and Ffoulkes!"
"Warn them of what?" Cassillis demanded, impatiently.
"Robespierre - he wasn't on the ship. He's here, Cass! He's heading around the coast road to the battery!"
Hornblower's temper blazed as hot and destructive as the remains
of /Jasmine/. The loss of life, the perverting of his own plan
and Kennedy, standing superior by the impromptu colours so proudly
displayed over the battery, satisfied with the terrible devastation
he had caused, all combined to make him very angry indeed.
The man smiled at them on hearing their approach, and sensing some further explosions about to take place, Styles quietly rejoined his comrades inside Culzean. That smile; just like he had on the deck of Hotspur! What stupid joke would he make now - over the wet graves of so many men?
"You knew!" Hornblower hissed, lowly.
"Knew what?" Kennedy asked, the welcoming grin fading in hurt confusion.
"That their magazine was at the Starboard quarter! You told Sir Andrew to direct the boat there, knowing it was by the powder room aboard /Jasmine/!" he accused.
"Of course I knew," Kennedy replied, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"And how?" Hornblower demanded, keeping his fury in check, as he thought it would take very little for him to actually attack the Lieutenant.
"I'm a spy, Horatio - it's what I do," Kennedy responded, a hard note creeping into his tone. "I saw several plans of enemy warships in Trevellian's library while I was in France - that knowledge has been used throughout the fleet, I might add."
"Sir!" Hornblower snapped, closing the distance between them by another pace. "I am a superior officer, Mr Kennedy. I would recommend that you do not forget that again! Mister Hornblower, or sir!"
Kennedy very deliberately closed the gap further, and Hornblower was taken aback by the ice-cold look in the man's eyes. No longer the warm blue of a calm sea, no longer the comforting sympathetic blue of St. Andrew's standard, which remained still over the bay, but a cold blue of the depths of winter. "I am a courteous man, by nature, /sir/, so I shall honour that request. But you might wish to consider, /sir/, that I am an agent of His Majesty's Secret Service, and it will therefore take more than the orders of a mere Naval Commander to direct my behaviour.
"I might further remind you, /sir/, that far greater crimes have been committed for the security of English lives, by none other than the men who stand here. And I see very little to mourn over should Scotland be defended with similar diligence, /sir/! Not to mention others who have benefited from my own willingness to act!"
Hornblower was lost for words. There could be no denying Kennedy's meaning, and that he should attack him with his own guilty past felt like a physical blow. How much had Kennedy changed? He had always been confident that his secrets were safe with Kennedy; that they were weapons he would never use against him; that the past would remain in the past, and his misfortunes not flung in his face like so much grapeshot. That he should be attacked in such a manner by a man who had previously been his dearest friend cut like a cold shard of ice; that same ice that was still evident in Kennedy's eyes.
He had no time to respond, however, as he found himself hauled behind one of the canons, along with Kennedy, by none other than Blakeney. Both officers looked accusingly at the Scarlet Pimpernel, waiting for an explanation.
"Robespierre!" he gasped. "He's coming around from the coast road!"
"/What/?" Kennedy and Hornblower demanded, in unison.
"He was not aboard /Jasmine/?" the Commander continued.
"He mustn't have been," Blakeney reasoned. "I can only think that's why /Jasmine/ didn't attack Culzean with all the force she might have; she was really only a distraction for Robespierrewhat are you doing?"
Kennedy was stripping off jacket, waistcoat, neckcloth and finally pulled the ribbon from his hair, which fell around his face and shoulders in gold waves. "I imitated one cousin; I can imitate another," he stated. "That man will /not/ have Tony!"
"I don't think that's much of a risk," Hornblower responded. The truce they shared in battle and often aboard ship would have to be re-established in light of this new crisis, but he was determined to lay his accusations before Kennedy at some point in the near future. He had no hope of salvaging any sort of connection with this man who had become so alien to him - this hard man who had effected the destruction of an entire ship and all the lives aboard with barely a second thought. This man who knew the worst of him, and in whom Hornblower no longer trusted. However, Kennedy's next plea did argue for a devotion to his family that Hornblower had never heard before.
There was only Maria, whom he had difficulty envisioning in any such danger, but if he were to see Bush as Robespierre's prisoner, or even Pellew. Would the utter destruction of one French corvette be too high a price to pay for either man's safety? Perhaps Kennedy's decision had not been the wrong one, in light of the warm sentiments and protective manner he had towards Dewhurst, Hornblower reflected; he would be capable of as much to defend the right people. No - it had been the thoughtless manner in which the destruction had been orchestrated; Kennedy had not hesitated; he did not even regret the necessity of the act, nor consider it the least cause for lament. Somewhere along the line, Kennedy had lost any compassion for those men, and that was not the Kennedy Hornblower remembered.
"Did he come alone?" Kennedy asked, suddenly.
After a moment's pause, Blakeney replied, "I don't know. I saw Robespierre, recognised him, and came to warn you. I suppose it would be reasonable to assume he's kept some men for reinforcements - a bodyguard."
"With any luck they'll be under orders not to harm Dewhurst," Kennedy said. Hornblower looked down. Well - he couldn't call Kennedy any kind of coward, if he was willing to enter this deception, for it was truly an act that could get him killed the moment Robespierre discovered that he was not Dewhurst.
"Tony is likely to stay as far away from Robespierre as he can get," Blakeney stated. "I don't think there's any need for this pretence!"
"You didn't see him, Sir Percy," Kennedy was saying. There was true fear in his voice, now; not for himself, but for his cousin. It reminded Hornblower of the fear he had heard in the man's voice in prison in Kingston - fear for Hornblower, and the verdict of the Court Martial. "You didn't see him at Robespierre's mansion. I've never seen anybody so much in another's thrall. Soenslaved. I believe that should Robespierre order him to his side, that Tony would goI don't just believe it; I'm also afraid of it, because there'll be no chance to release him again. It has to be finished once and for all. And now. For god's sake, Blakeney, keep him inside; don't let him see Robespierre - it would be too much."
Blakeney nodded, and Hornblower saw no reasonable alternative but for him to accompany the Baronet back into the castle. There were men to be evacuated; men who were his responsibility, after all, and Kennedy would have to take his chances with the Frenchman.
In carrying out that duty, and ensuring the men's safety, though, he had an excellent vantage point from which to observe the events on the battery; and just as he thought he was being unreasonable and extremely judgemental towards Kennedy - perhaps even unjust - he was given more evidence of the changes in his former friend, and greater reason to condemn him.
To Kennedy's vast relief, he saw Anthony signal through the
ruined window that Robespierre was alone, after all. He wished
he could work out exactly what it was that the man was doing here;
a powerful figure of the Revolution - even a man who had (albeit
unintentionally) cleared the path for Napoleon's rise to political
and military power, was in the remotest parts of Scotland, attempting
to retrieve a prisoner who did /not/ have any significance but
who /did/ have friends to protect him.
He was not worried that Robespierre might hurt him; he had been described as quite a weak, thin and pale man, with an imposing personality, but very little physical prowess. Kennedy didn't feel he had to worry about him much, but he did hope to confuse the man enough toto what? Besides his instinct to protect Tony, and the impulsive attempt to imitate him and so distract his foe, he didn't actually have a sound plan. He supposed he could play a cat-and-mouse game; have Robespierre chase him over the battery while Anthony got behind himor even Hornblower or one of the others, and who could take him prisoner or otherwise dispose of him as their respective duties demanded.
He quickly used the barrel of water set up for the men during the hot work of serving the guns to soak his hair; it was the feature least like his cousin, although they both seemed to have kept it to about the same length. Wet, it should look less red and more dark blond.
"I can see you," Robespierre said, very softly. "I know that you are behind the fourth large gun to my right."
Kennedy considered that as adequate evidence that Robespierre could indeed see him. He could think of no way in which that might prove significant, but the soft words and manner had the quality of a velvet covered iron gauntlet.
"Why don't you come out, and we can discuss this like rational men? All I want is for you to come home."
He took a pace forwards and Kennedy ducked around quickly, gaining a little more distance. He didn't want Robespierre to see him too closely and discover the deception. What he did not expect was the explosion of a pistol. Robespierre had a noted dislike of weapons - what was he doing carrying a pistol? However, he was past the battery door; sooner or later there should be some opportunity for one of the others to take him. He needed to get the second pistol away.
"I wouldn't want your family to do anything foolish, Lord Dewhurst, because I couldn't guarantee their wellbeing," he continued. "But please believe me, I have no intention of hurting /you/. Have I ever hurt you?"
Kennedy's instinct was to reply an indignant 'yes!', but sense forestalled him. Robespierre was too clever to inflict pain or damage himself; he had been so very careful not to. Dewhurst wouldn't dare disagree - in fact, the man wouldn't disagree at all, because in his disturbed perception of the truth, Robespierre really had not hurt him. The threat to the others was quite clear, though. With the restricted dimensions of the battery, Robespierre would be hard pressed to miss any target which might be presented.
"I d-d-d-don't want to g-g-go with you!" Kennedy called, hoping he could copy Dewhurst's stutter convincingly. He needed time to think; time to find some diversion or come up with some plan. The only options he had so far required aid, and there was no way for him to communicate that at present. Perhaps he could divert Robespierre's attention to the destroyed vessel in the bay beneath them; it would be a spectacle enough to hold his notice for a few seconds at least - long enough to get that pistol out of his grasp.
"I c-c-c-c-could distract Robespierre," Dewhurst
suggested. "Archie only n-n-n-n-needs a few seconds...."
Cassillis bit his lip. He was not a coward; neither did he fool himself into thinking miracles could be accomplished without sacrifice and a volunteer was always better than an unwilling man. However, he was no leader - physically weak, mild-tempered and lacking both great inventiveness and passion, he could find it difficult to make tough decisions: the harder the choice, the worse he was. Neither was he capable of quick assessment of risk, which made him a poor card-player. His only firm resolves came when only one realistic option existed, and then he became bull-headed about it, even failing to reconsider when new factors were introduced. No; decisions had never been his strong point.
This, however, was a tough choice full of risks, and Cassillis was flagging. He felt twice his years, and this time it was not solely down to the illness that slowly robbed him of vigour. "Tony - I don't think Archie intended for you to be at risk for a second; why else have you been shut up in here with me?" he asked.
"I c-c-c-c-can't let Archie be hurt!" Dewhurst argued.
"Cass is right; your cousin has gone to a lot of trouble to keep you safe - he'd never forgive you for putting yourself in danger!" Blakeney responded.
"He'd never forgive /us/," Anthony corrected, dispassionately.
They had prepared weapons in case of any attempt by the French to take the battery by abandoning their ship, but in the damp and unpredictable climate of Scotland, they had been left by the door, ready to be fetched at a moment's notice. The destruction of /Jasmine/ had made them seem superfluous, however, and in an attempt to be helpful, and familiar with the protocols at the end of battle aboard ship, the seamen had seen to their safe stowage, decocked and unloaded the pistols and left the swords towards the door leading further into the Castle to be collected by their respective owners.
Dewhurst grabbed the nearest bladed weapon; a Navy dirk. "I c-c-c-c-could stab him," he said, almost breathless with the audacity of his simple plan. "B-b-b-b-b-b-before he has time to fire. I could stab him!"
Anthony smiled down at him. "Nobody doubts your courage, Lord Dewhurst," he said, but then his eyes narrowed, and Cassillis for one did not like the look in them. From the way Hornblower was considering him (with disgust that he didn't trouble to disguise, as it happened), he felt quite justified in this new nervousness.
"However; I'm quite happy with the idea that Kennedy could end the matter if a suitable distraction could be provided. I believe that Robespierre is telling the truth when he says he won't hurt you, and he currently believes that you're out there already. Perhaps if you /did/ make an appearance, it would create enough confusion to give Kennedy the chance he needs."
"Are you out of your mind?" Cassillis demanded.
"Oh, quite, quite," Anthony agreed, with a dismissive wave. "It won't take any great strenuous activity on Lord Dewhurst's part. He should just make his presence known and ensure Robespierre gets a good look at him. Kennedy can do the rest. Lord Dewhurst can remain by the door for a swift retreat should any problems come up. I'm sure that between us we're more than a match for one little Frenchman. He can't shoot /all/ of us, after all."
Dewhurst nodded in a fever of anticipation, and moved cautiously towards the door, looking out at whatever scene might be playing itself out on the battery. Cassillis attention was on Anthony, as the spy prepared a couple of pistols for their own use out of the stock, Blakeney and Ffoulkes were retrieving their own weapons from the pile, and Hornblower was contemplating his shoes with a frown. He certainly did not like Anthony's plan. For that matter, neither did Cassillis.
"No!" he said. "No - this is madness. I'm not going to allow it."
Anthony looked up to argue, but before he could answer Cassillis' concerns, his head turned towards Dewhurst. "I meant when we were ready!" he called. But Dewhurst had already slipped out of the shattered door.
Robespierre had moved further towards Kennedy, and in his attempt
to shuffle away as Dewhurst might, rather than a smooth retreat
behind the next gun, the Lieutenant's foot caught on one of the
few pieces of unused chain-shot the blacksmith had managed to
construct and he fell heavily to the ground, giving Robespierre
more than sufficient time to close the gap and train his weapon
on him. He cowered, and tried to disguise himself behind his shirt
sleeves. He had stripped off all his weapons along with his outer
clothing and stuffed them under the first gun that had provided
his shelter! He had the knife in the sheath on his arm, but there
was no way he could get it into his hand and into Robespierre's
chest before the man fired.
Besides, if he moved - if he exposed his face completely, Robespierre was certain to see that he was not Dewhurst and would probably fire anyway. He had come to know Dewhurst better than anybody in the past ten years, and was perhaps the one person in the world who might not be fooled. It was going to take a miracle for anything on /Jasmine/ to explode further and provide a few moment's chance: Anthony was too subtle to just fling a few missiles through the door and Hornblowerwell - he could no longer count on Hornblower to do whatever was necessary to help him.
However, then came his miracle - such a miracle that he was distracted himself for several seconds, and it did not come from /Jasmine/, nor Anthony, nor Hornblower. But it was Dewhurst, standing over him and facing Robespierre. Robespierre stared first at Dewhurst, then he and Kennedy looked at each other in the same instant, and before he was quite aware of the item in his cousin's hand, Dewhurst thrust a dagger into Robespierre's exposed side. Kennedy knew it was in no way a fatal strike, although that was clearly what Dewhurst had intended, but Robespierre was not used to such abuse, and as Dewhurst fell back, the Frenchman's distress and his removal of the knife lasted long enough for Kennedy to regain his feet, although one foot was still entangled in the chain shot.
Robespierre saw the deception; knew which of his targets was Dewhurst and which was not; the pistol began its downward journey once again to end Kennedy's life, but he managed to catch Robespierre's arm and keep the pistol away from his body. Robespierre was just a little taller and effectively manacled by the shot, Kennedy could only keep himself safe, as he couldn't reach the weapon to disarm him! It was frustrating, and the dagger was now in Robespierre's possession, keeping Dewhurst at a distance, too.
However, Dewhurst was determined not to be useless for very long. He dived to the ground, and freed Kennedy from the chain. The Lieutenant pushed his advantage, carrying them to the shallow ledge of the battery; hoping to force Robespierre over the gun and so get hold of the pistol. Robespierre swung the knife wildly at his stomach to prevent such a manoeuvre, but inexpert, he was swinging in a wide arc, and, staggering under the unfamiliar weight, Dewhurst used the same chain-shot to entrap his former tormentor's wrist.
It was enough. Kennedy's hand closed over Robespierre's and he pressed the Frenchman's finger into the trigger so it fired the pistol harmlessly into the air. Robespierre fumbled for the knife with his other hand and in so doing, Kennedy was able to trap the blade through the chain, twist it and bring it back, creating an effective weighted manacle.
From there, it was a simple matter to tip Robespierre over the side of the battery, and down the cliff.
_EPILOGUE, PART ONE_
The mood outside Culzean Castle was jubilant. The large empty
barn had been stocked for the seamen's use; Cassillis had sent
down food, and drink and some of the locals who became aware of
the battle or heard of it from others joined in the celebrations,
as the seamen made themselves popular in re-telling the story
and danced with the young women, played dice with the men, became
very drunk, no doubt, and ate better than they could hope to in
their months at sea. In return, the villagers celebrated this
latest evidence of their lord and master's apparent revitalization
and looked forward to a brighter future.
Inside Culzean, however, the atmosphere was more subdued. Having watched the fatal fall of the Incorrputible, Kennedy had brought his cousin back into the house and managed to get him past the glass and damage before he fell unconscious completely and two of the servants took him upstairs to his bed. Sebastian had gone to lend his expertise at the village, while he was here and Ffoulkes had ridden hard to fetch him back, although there was nothing wrong with Dewhurst that being more careful in his exertions wouldn't cure, and indeed the surgeon spent more of his time reassuring Ffoulkes, Blakeney and Cassillis that Dewhurst would be fine after a good sleep than he did tending the patient he had been called to treat.
Anthony also left, to make his report to his superiors. He bullied Kennedy into drawing up his own version of the events immediately, read it through briefly before having the Lieutenant sign it, seal it, and give it over to the spy's possession to be taken to the Admiralty along with his own. Hornblower was not sorry to see the back of the spy; he didn't like the man, and wondered how much of this new ruthlessness in Kennedy could be attributed to him. After all, he had called Robespierre's murder 'masterly' and had witnessed it with evident pleasure; the only credit that might be given to Kennedy was that he did not comment himself.
Sir Percy and Lord Cassillis had entered a debate about military matters, but since it concerned army tactics, Hornblower could offer nothing and Ffoulkes had gone to check on Lord Dewhurst for the dozenth time, so he gazed into the fire, and tried to think.
"It's no good, Cass," Kennedy smiled. "There will be an end to it, and I'm going to see whether anything in the library holds answers!"
Deciding that this would be too awkward aboard ship, and wanting to say his piece, Hornblower made a discrete exit and followed Kennedy's candlelight towards the library, feeling the cold in the ancient building, but warmed when he could see lights coming from the barn, and hear the scrape of a fiddle and louder voices in a cheerful song. He might not appreciate such racket himself, but it signalled that the men were enjoying themselves.
He entered the library quietly; Kennedy had left the door open and was perusing a book. Not finding the information he wanted, he replaced it, and took another from the shelf. Hornblower watched him for a moment. Over the past year or so, Kennedy had made some advances towards him concerning their former friendship; he had demonstrated a willingness to reconcile, and left Hornblower in no doubt that should he ever alter his attitude, that he would not find a cold reception. On more than one occasion, Hornblower had contemplated the possibility.
Hornblower missed his friend; that much he could admit to himself, even if to no other. There was Bush, of course; stalwart, faithful, good-hearted Bush who had refused to shoot aboard /Hotspur/, who had remained despite orders and who had pleaded to the then Commodore Pellew for the rescue of his friend. Kennedy would never have done less, but Hornblower had never been under any illusions that Kennedy was a very different man to Bush.
He might have confided his insecurities about command to Kennedy, and be comforted. To tell them to Bush would mean the latter would lose faith in him, and no captain could afford that. Kennedy would have understood without thinking less of him. Kennedy would have talked him out of his foolish engagement with Maria; huh - Kennedy would have prevented him from making such an error as to ask for her hand in the first place.
Hornblower was only too aware that he was a poorer man without Kennedy's friendship.
He also knew the danger Kennedy represented. Once a man of honour, Kennedy had lied without a second thought at a Court Martial, and again to a Board of Inquiry. The first, Hornblower understood; the logic of his confession to pushing Sawyer was undeniable, but the shabby show of confusion and chaos during the second was inexcusable! It was heinous, no matter how much Hornblower himself had benefited from Kennedy's "willingness to act", as the man had so eloquently put it.
Some of the secrets and lies concerning France might be excused, but Hornblower had to admit that he was deeply wounded that Kennedy had not confided in him when he first took the mission aboard /Renown/. Sawyer's madness had pushed matters along too fast and too far, he knew, for a slow and precise operation to be carried out, and he now understood all those occasions on which Kennedy had indeed tried to warn him. However, to never tell Hornblower of the danger to Britain's security and safety was the first evidence he had of the change in Kennedy.
And now, the most terrible evidence. Kennedy's murder of Robespierre had been cold and calculated. The man had tried to shoot Kennedy and abduct his sickly cousin, the Lord Dewhurst, who had been his prisoner for a decade. Kennedy had disarmed him, and in the process, Robespierre had perished. No report would damn Kennedy; not even Hornblower could tell the tale in a way that would make Kennedy seem the villain (not that his dislike for the man would prompt him to try - Hornblower was finding it very difficult to forget that Kennedy had once been dear to him).
But the manner in which Kennedy had carried out that executionthat assassination
"Oh!" The book dropped, and brought Hornblower out of his reverie. "I didn't hear you," Kennedy continued, neutrally, leaning over to retrieve the tome. Hornblower noticed the distinct lack of 'sir', and the lack of 'Horatio', too. When they had been friends, the way Kennedy used his name made it sound far less repugnant. In the same way, Kennedy was very good at making the word 'sir' into an insult, without seeming to be saying anything out of the ordinary.
When Hornblower didn't speak, he asked, "Is there something wrong?" in that same neutral manner.
"Wrong?" asked Hornblower. "My god, Kennedy - how could you ask? You congratulate yourself this day with the deaths of the entire crew aboard that corvette, and the deliberate murder of Robespierre. What am I to find that is right?"
Even in the warm, golden candlelight, Kennedy seemed to radiate a chill as he snapped shut the book and put it back in its correct place on the shelf. "A French corvette attacked my home and I defended it to the best of my ability," he responded. "I will not apologise for that. Indeed, the idea of the incendiary was your own."
"You deliberately aimed it towards their powder room!"
There was the slightest pause in which Hornblower recalled their previous encounter on this matter. Kennedy had seen warship plans in France, but there was no guarantee that those draughts referred to any ship constructed outside the time they were dated for; it could be that the draughts were altered, or something occurred during fitting to necessitate a removal of the powder store; /Jasmine/ may have been a prize. There were many reasons why Kennedy's suggestion could have failed to do more than cripple her.
However, Kennedy did not point out these facts, and limited his reply to. "Yes. I deliberately recommended the boat to the point at which I thought it would do most damage. Did you do less when destroying the semaphore? Would a regiment of French militia quartering there have made any difference to the plan to wreck it completely? Did either of us count how many might still be left at Samana when we returned to light the fuse? This is war; we are His Majesty's officers and the destruction or capture of enemy ships is our business. Come, Mr Hornblower - you know better than that."
"But I regret the loss of life, Mr Kennedy," Hornblower retorted. "In a manner which you seem not to have retained."
"Oh, I apologise that my stint as the guest of the Revolutionary Government has rather diminished the value of a French life in my eyes," Kennedy replied, airily. "Indeed, there's hardly been a French life - or a Spanish one - dear to me since then. Odd, that my feelings on the subject did not seem to bother you at Muzillac."
Hornblower felt himself blush. He knew what had happened to Kennedy as a prisoner; he knew that he might be blamed for that, since it was he who had struck Kennedy helpless in the boat. Although his fits had sapped his strength, Kennedy did recover from them quite quickly, and would at least have been able to prevent the loss of the oars that would have got him back to /Indefatigable/. He would have been able to prevent the boat from drifting away from /Papillon/ when Simpson cut it loose, and moored it again. Matthews and Styles had assured him that neither of them had told him of what occurred that night, and the other men to witness events had never come into contact with Kennedy again. Hornblower, however, still felt guilty, and he moved rapidly away from the subject.
"You could have taken Robespierre prisoner! You made the choice to kill him!"
Hornblower had never feared Kennedy; the idea that he was a man to be wary of was ridiculous, really, but for a moment, he reconsidered that position. The flash was only there for a moment, but he had never seen Kennedy so affected before.
"Your knowledge of the Revolution is limited, Mr Hornblower, so I'll seek to enlighten you. I had the benefit of a courtyard view from one gaol. That courtyard was host to a guillotine and I saw countless executions - too many to recall all of them, but a few stand out as memorable. Not indolent, selfish aristocrats in fine lace and silk to speak of, sadly, but traders and tenants. An eleven year old boy, a seven year old girl. /A seven year old child/, Mr Hornblower! An old man who could barely walk; a woman who was forced to lie face-up because she was too near her time, and couldn't lie on her belly. A blind beggarshall I go on? Such enemies of the State - such dissolute souls as no history can boast, and all went to their deaths with the signature of Maxim Robespierre on their warrants!"
Hornblower stood rigid as realised the hate in Kennedy's eyes was not directed towards him. He had not heard of this part of Kennedy's imprisonment, because the other man hadn't wished to talk of the experience very much, and so Hornblower had never pried into those matters of which he had no knowledge. Neither had he taken much interest in the details of the Revolution in France because only the wider political ramifications were likely to affect matters in the Britain and the Navy. He had known of children being executed with their parents, but hearing the actual ages flung at him made it morereal.
"Have you seen my cousin? Have you seen what he has been reduced to? A sorry creature frightened of everyone and yet utterly dependent on them?"
Hornblower remained silent, and Kennedy shook his head, the fire fading from his voice. He no longer sounded animated and impassioned - just tired. "Well; perhaps none of this affects you or yours, sir. Maybe it can all be considered my own burden, but with such in mind, the solution was also mine - and I took great pleasure in executing that man. It gives me hope that there is still justice in the world, so long as others are willing to do it, and however 'cold-blooded' you consider me. I like to think that no such suffering is going to occur again, as it may have should he have one day earned Bonaparte's trust."
Kennedy was only a yard away from him, now, and Hornblower looked at him, feeling conflicted. Nothing Kennedy had said was untrue, and Hornblower concluded that he was even right, but that Kennedy was capable of such thought, of such ruthlessness was saddening. This was not the man who had welcomed him aboard /Justinian/ with a smile and a helping hand; it was not the man who had run across a bridge about to explode to save him; it was not the same being who had returned to the fortress to help him set the fuses, or jumped from the cliff, with a man who couldn't swim and another who was afraid of heights
"You're right," he said, quietly. He saw hope in Kennedy's face, and sought to quench it as soon as he possibly could. "Robespierre was an evil man and he deserved his death. An alliance between him and Bonaparte would indeed be a frightening thought when one considers all that he was capable of, and I suppose I leave this room a wiser man. But what must frighten me, Mr Kennedy, more than what Robespierre was, is what /you/ have become."
With that, leaving Kennedy looking as though he had been slapped, Hornblower turned on his heel and left the library.
_EPILOGUE, PART TWO_
Walking towards the Admiralty buildings in Portsmouth, Alexander
Halliwell took his time, as he discussed recent events with his
most talented spy. Anthony, for the present, wore the uniform
of a Naval Lieutenant and his demeanour was serious but just a
little proud - much of his jovial, feckless act put aside as the
Spymaster sought his views.
"A worthwhile venture, overall?" he asked.
"Indeed, sir," Anthony answered. "Cassillis is grateful enough that the Service now has a safe house with good sea access, priest holes, loyal tenants and an excellent defensive battery. Doubtless the Duke of Exeter should be grateful for the return of his little brother, although I don't see how we could use him just yet. At last, we've acquired contacts in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Robespierre is dead; his influence gone forever, and his genius quite out of the reach of Bonaparte. Yes, sir - a /most/ worthwhile venture."
Halliwell nodded, satisfied with the observations, as they matched his own very handsomely. So often such small jobs were worth the time and effort required to fulfil them. If it had not been for Dewhurst's closeness to the main danger (Robespierre) and their intended recruit (Kennedy), it was very unlikely that His Majesty's Secret Service would have considered him worth rescuing at all. "And what of our latest acquisition?" he asked.
"Mmm," Anthony smiled, a little more like his usual self. "Yes - Kennedy is definitely an asset. Shame we couldn't have got to him sooner, really; smothered a few of his gentlemanly sentiments, perhaps. He's quite capable of being marvellously ruthless, for the right cause, and it's a shame he isn't so more often. His disposal of Robespierre was decisive, quick and efficient; so we don't have to worry that he'd either balk or that he's inclined to 'amuse' himself."
"Quite," Halliwell agreed. "But we have him, now. Certainly he's fond of Dewhurst, and he'll remain grateful to the Service for it's assistance in the matter for a considerable time - at very little inconvenience to ourselves - and we can work on him at our leisure. Yes, we can consider him ours, I think."
"Sooner, even," Anthony observed. "He argued with Hornblower again; this time actually declaring himself an agent of the Secret Service before any mention of his career in the Navy! I think that if he doesn't notice just how much we benefited, I believe he'll remain most obliging. We ought to play down the impact of Robespierre's demise, and perhaps not push the point with the League."
"He's no fool," Halliwell warned, pausing for a moment, and looking up at Anthony. "Sooner or later he'll work out what we've done. The more he learns of the service in the meantime, the more he'll wonder why we threw our support behind him on this occasion. After all, to us, Dewhurst is nothing but some petty noble, who we haven't even missed for the past ten years."
"By that time, the more we'll have him," Anthony pressed. "The Service is nothing like any other branch of the military on earth: you said yourself that he has already used his skills at sea. He truly exerted himself in the defence of Culzean and didn't hesitate to do what was necessary in the end, for all that he found such assassination distasteful. With all due respect, sir: nobody leaves the Service once ensnared, and even if he does work it all out then he still has his cousin safely back in Britain. Therefore, he can /still/ consider himself in our debt."
Halliwell grinned. Anthony was not afraid to dispute with him (none of his spies were), and that was a valuable thing in itself. He hoped Kennedy would be as forthright, too. "Yes, Anthony," he said. "Yes, indeed. I think we might safely put Lieutenant Kennedy on the payroll, whether he likes it or not."