Dawn on a Distant Shore Page 15

Nathaniel frowned. "Can a cook get us into the gaol, or our people out of it?"

"Ach, nothing so simple as that," said Moncrieff. "But he can let ye bide in Pink George's kitchen, and that's where ye need to be, this evening. Giselle's invited me tae one o' her parties, and she intends to have Otter and Hawkeye there."

Nathaniel remembered Giselle's parties very well. She gathered men around her for the evening when her father was away, more concerned with amusement than reputation. He had never enjoyed them, and liked the idea even less now. "You're thinking we'll just walk them out of the lieutenant governor's mansion?"

"At the right moment, aye. And why not?"

Why not. Nathaniel hid his grin in his tankard. It was a beautifully simple plan. At the most it would require that they waylay the redcoats assigned to guard the prisoners. With the right management, they would be drunk, too.

But Robbie was blinking at Moncrieff in disbelief, his color rising fast.

"Are ye saying that Giselle has summoned Otter and Hawkeye tae entertain the lairds and officers, like trained monkeys? Hawkeye will ha' nane o' that, and should she stand him at the end of a musket."

"That may be true," Moncrieff said, lowering his voice. "But think on it, Rab. They'll aa be fu' o' drink by midnight. By morning they'll be sober, and we'll be lang awa'."

"My father will see the beauty of that, if we can get word to him." Nathaniel put a hand on Robbie's shoulder. "He'd go a far sight further to get out of gaol than sit next to Giselle Somerville at a dinner table."

Robbie frowned. "Pink George will be in a puir temper when he comes hame and hears o' it. It wadna be the first time he's raised a hand tae his dauchter."

"She'll have to handle that on her own," said Nathaniel, more loudly than he intended. "She's had to deal with him angry, she knows what she's about."

"Ye're an unco' hard man betimes, Nathaniel Bonner." Robbie sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose with one broad thumb. "Wha's first then in this plan o' yours, Angus?"

"The gaol. We've got to get word to Hawkeye. Wee Iona would be willing to pay a call, perhaps."

"No' Iona," Robbie said in a tone that brooked no discussion.

Nathaniel nodded in agreement. "She's too well known to get involved in this."

Moncrieff studied the tabletop. After a moment, he turned to look over his shoulder at Adele, who was sitting on a stool by the hearth and tending a kettle of beans. She was up before he could even wink at her, soft curves and a warm smile.

"Perhaps a friend, then, wi' a bit o' beef, and a message tucked away in a safe place." He rose with his tankard in hand, tipping back his head to get the last swallow. "I need a private word wi' Adele. Tell me, man. How are ye at cards?"

"I'm better with a rifle," said Nathaniel.

"He's better wi' a bluidy sewin' needle." Robbie grinned.

Nathaniel shrugged. "I expect that's true," he said. "There ain't much I like less than cards."

"You won't have to pretend to lose, then." Angus nodded, satisfied. "Perhaps you and Robbie would care to see if there's any interest in a game." He raised one brow in the direction of the man singing into his ale, and then headed toward the back room where Adele had disappeared.

Robbie straightened, his face creased in confusion. "Why wad we want tae play cards wi' a whey-faced sot like that?" he asked, sending a fierce look toward the corner.

"Because that's Martin Fink," Nathaniel said. "Did you think Moncrieff steered us here by accident?"

Robbie started. "The Somervilles' cook, d'ye mean? Mary bless me, and sae it must be." He rubbed a hand over his face. "I wadna ha' guessed Angus tae be sae verra sly."

Nathaniel picked up his tankard to swallow the last of his ale, and along with it the worst of his doubts about Angus Moncrieff. They were started down this road now and they would see where it took them, but he would be on guard. He clapped Robbie on the back and leaned over to whisper in the great shell-like ear. "You watch my back, Rab, and I'll watch yours."

A forest away, Elizabeth was half asleep in front of the hearth with both infants at her breast, when faint laughter startled her into full wakefulness.

"What was that?"

Hannah looked up from grinding corn, and wiped a strand of hair away from her face with the back of her hand. "What was what?"

Confused, Elizabeth settled back into the rocker. "I heard something. Perhaps I was dreaming."

"About my father," Hannah concluded.

With a yawn she could barely hold back, Elizabeth pulled the pillows that supported the twins closer to her. There were longer pauses now between gulps, and soon they would be asleep. Elizabeth thought of the cradle and her own bed in the other room, but she was simply too weary to move, and she let herself drift back toward sleep just where she was. For three weeks now she had never had as much as three hours of continuous rest; it was no surprise if she was beginning to confuse waking and sleeping dreams.

Hannah looked worn down, too. All day long she worked, she and Liam with Curiosity's help, to keep the household running, food on the table, the firewood stacked, the hearth cleaned. Seldom did Elizabeth miss her girlhood home, but she found herself thinking more and more these days of Aunt Merriweather's legions of servants. At Oakmere, little girls had been free to be little girls.

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