The Mask Revealed(3)

By: Julia Brannan

Lady Elizabeth (Beth) Peters, wife to Sir Anthony

Sergeant Richard Cunningham, a Dragoon and brother to Beth

Sarah Brown, formerly lady’s maid to Beth.

Lord Edward Cunningham, cousin to Richard and Beth

Isabella Cunningham, his eldest sister

Clarissa Cunningham, his middle sister

Charlotte Stanhope, his youngest sister, widow of Frederick

King George II, King of Great Britain, Elector of Hanover

Edwin Harlow, MP

Caroline Harlow, his wife

Lord Bartholomew Winter

Lady Wilhelmina Winter, his wife

Anne Maynard, impoverished great-niece of Lord Winter

Lydia Fortesque, his daughter

Jeremiah Johnson, a Puritan gentleman

Thomas Pelham, Duke of Newcastle

Gabriel Foley, leader of a smuggling gang

Alexander (Alex) MacGregor, Highland Chieftain, currently living in England

Duncan MacGregor, brother to Alex

Angus MacGregor, brother to Alex

Iain Gordon, liegeman of Alex

Margaret (Maggie) Gordon, his wife

William (MacGregor) Drummond of Balhaldie, a gentleman

Graeme Elliott, formerly Beth’s gardener

Thomas Fletcher, her former steward

Jane Fletcher, wife to Thomas

Mary Swale, a scullerymaid

Ben, a boy servant

James Stuart, (the Pretender), exiled King of Britain

Charles Edward Stuart, his eldest son

John Murray of Broughton, a Jacobite gentleman

Katerina, maid to an Italian Countess

Sir Horace Mann, British envoy in Florence

Nathaniel and Philip, his clerks

Sir Thomas Sheridan, tutor to Charles Stuart

Father Antonio Montefiori, a priest

Louis XV, King of France

Marguerite, his mistress

Henri Monselle, servant to the King


August 1743

Once he’d divested himself of his shoes and his coat, he sank back into the chair, which was positioned in front of the hearth in his bedroom. As always, when he found himself alone at last, he sighed with relief. He enjoyed this nightly routine, needed it even. His days were so busy, so full of activity, that during them he couldn’t take even a moment for himself. He had to be constantly on the alert, and although physically he exerted himself less now than he had ever done, by the end of each day he was usually mentally exhausted.

No matter how tired he was, before undressing and getting into bed, he would always sit for a few minutes and try to relax, to forget the worries of the day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

He attempted to do the same tonight. He stretched his arms above his head and his feet out towards the hearth, in which a small fire burned merrily. He felt his muscles and tendons lengthen, and the tension in them melt away. Then he stared into the fire and waited for his mind to become hypnotised by the flames, to calm.

After a few minutes, he sat back and sighed. There would be no peace for him tonight. He had been a fool to think there could be. He looked across at the bed, knowing he really should climb into it, and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a long and arduous day, but that would be nothing compared to the days to come after that.

He sighed again, and looked longingly at the crystal decanter of amber liquid that sat invitingly within arm’s reach on a small table at the side of his chair. No. He had had enough to drink this evening, and anyway, the only way he could calm his mind tonight would be to drink himself into a stupor, and he could not do that. He had to be sharp tomorrow; he wanted to be sharp tomorrow.

He could only hope he was doing the right thing. He was not accustomed to taking stupid chances. Chances, yes; they were an almost daily occurrence, but they were all taken with the bigger picture in view. This, though, was a chance he could not justify in terms of the cause that had dominated his whole life for the past years. This was personal.

He did not mind the risk to himself; but in what he was about to do, he risked his men, his family. He knew they thought his decision to be a wrong one, yet they would follow him nonetheless, and die for him and with him, without a word of censure, if it came to it. It was up to him to make sure it did not come to that.

In that moment, as the fire burned lower and the candle in its holder on the table guttered, he was suddenly seized with the certainty that he was wrong. His instincts, which usually served him so well, had failed him, and he and those whose lives he held so dear, would pay for his recklessness with their blood.

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