Home > Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8)(11)

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8)(11)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

By the time we’d got my hair done up in something resembling order, corralled in a snood and pinned respectably under a broad-brimmed woven straw hat, I’d come up with at least a rough notion of what to tell General Clinton. Stick to the truth as far as possible. That was the first principle of successful lying, though it had been some time since I’d been last obliged to employ it.

Well, then. A messenger had come for Lord John—one had—bringing a note—he did. I had no idea what was in the note—totally true. Lord John had then left with the messenger but without telling me where they were going. Also technically true, the only variance being that it had been a different messenger. No, I hadn’t seen in which direction they had gone; no, I didn’t know whether they had walked or ridden—Lord John’s saddle horse was kept at Davison’s livery on Fifth Street, two blocks away.

That sounded good. If General Clinton chose to make inquiries, I was reasonably sure he’d discover the horse still in its stall and thus conclude that John was somewhere in the city. He would also presumably lose interest in me as a source of information and send soldiers round to whatever haunts a man such as Lord John Grey might be supposed to be visiting.

And with any luck at all, by the time the general had exhausted such possibilities as Philadelphia offered, John would be back and could answer his own damned questions.

“And what about Jamie?” Jenny asked, her face showing small signs of anxiety. “He’ll not come back into the city, surely?”

“I hope not.” I could scarcely draw breath, and not merely because of the tight lacing. I could feel the thudding of my heart against the placket of the stays.

Jenny gave me a long, considering look, eyes narrowed, and shook her head.

“No, ye don’t,” she said. “Ye think he’ll come straight back here. For you. And ye’re right. He will.” She considered for a moment longer, her brow furrowed. “I’d best stay here,” she said abruptly. “Should he come back whilst ye’re wi’ the general, he’ll need to know what’s the state o’ things. And I dinna think I trust her in the kitchen not to stab him wi’ a toasting fork, should he loom up in her doorway without notice.”

I laughed, all too easily envisioning Mrs. Figg’s response to a sudden Highlander in her midst.

“Besides,” she added, “someone’s got to clear up the mess, and I’ve had a good bit o’ practice wi’ that, too.”

THE YOUNG SOLDIER greeted my belated reappearance with relief and, while not actually seizing my arm and hustling me down the pavement, offered me his own arm and then walked in such a fashion that I was urged into a near trot to keep up with him. It was not far to the mansion where Clinton had made his headquarters, but the day was warm and I arrived moist and gasping, with tendrils of hair escaping from under my straw hat and sticking to my neck and cheeks, and tendrils of sweat snaking their tickling slow way down inside my bodice.

My escort delivered me—with an audible sigh of relief—to another soldier in the spacious parquet-floored foyer, and I had a moment to shake the dust from my skirts, straighten and re-pin my hat, and blot my face and neck discreetly with a ladylike lace hankie. I was sufficiently taken up with this that it was a moment before I recognized the man sitting on one of the little gilded chairs on the other side of the foyer.

“Lady John,” he said, standing up when he saw that I had noticed him. “Your servant, ma’am.” He smiled slightly, though it lent no warmth at all to his eyes.

“Captain Richardson,” I said flatly. “How nice.” I didn’t offer my hand and he didn’t bow. There was no point in trying to pretend that we were anything but enemies—and not very cordial ones, either. He’d precipitated my marriage to Lord John by inquiring of John whether he, John, had any personal interest in me, as he, Richardson, was contemplating my immediate arrest on grounds of spying and of passing seditious materials. Both charges were quite true, and while John might not have known that, he took Richardson’s word regarding his intentions, told Richardson politely that, no, there was no personal interest—also true as a statement, so far as it went—and two hours later I was standing in his parlor in a daze of shock and grief, mechanically saying, “I do,” in response to questions that I neither heard nor comprehended.

I had barely heard Richardson’s name at the time, let alone known him by sight. John had introduced me—with cold formality—when Richardson came up to us at the Mischianza, the huge ball thrown for the British officers by the Loyalist ladies of Philadelphia a month before. And only then had he told me about Richardson’s threats, with a brief admonition to avoid the fellow.

“Are you waiting to see General Clinton?” I inquired politely. If he was, I had half a mind to execute a quiet sneak through the house and out of the back door whilst he was ensconced with the general.

“I am,” he replied, adding graciously, “but you must certainly go before me, Lady John. My business will wait.”

That had a mildly sinister ring to it, but I merely inclined my head politely, with a noncommittal “Hmm.”

It was dawning upon me, like an incipient case of indigestion, that my position with regard to the British army in general, and Captain Richardson in particular, was on the verge of a marked reevaluation. Once it became common knowledge that Jamie wasn’t dead—then I was no longer Lady John Grey. I was Mrs. James Fraser again, and while that was certainly cause for ecstatic rejoicing, it also removed any restraint on Captain Richardson’s baser urges.

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