This is a continuation of the shorter 'In Pursuit of Glory
' story i'd written about a month ago, but it starts a new, longer story, so I felt it would be better in it's own thread.
August 3, 1759, Hahlen, Near Minden.
The day after the battle, the 2nd, consisted mostly of burial duties for the Lieutenant and his company. The final casualty reports had been made – the 12th had lost 17 officers and 272 men during the battle. Overall, he’d heard, British casualties accounted for more than half of the allied casualties during the battle. But it was rumored the French had lost nearly 10,000 men, and 43 guns – almost worth the cost to the allies.
But today, Prince Ferdinand had ordered three day’s rest – a rarity, but with the French withdrawing to Cassel, one that they could afford. The 12th had been encamped near Hahlen – a small hamlet on the edge of Minden, and the Officers of the regiment had set up their headquarters and mess in an abandoned coaching house. It was here that Horne needed to go, to see to a pressing matter.
Riding from their camp, he and John, his ever-present companion had handed their horses over to one of the orderlies waiting at the stables, before proceeding for breakfast, and their ten o’clock meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Wood. The dining area of the coaching house was filled with pipe smoke, and was quiet, save for the voice of one officer.
“…So there I was, sword broken, pistol empty, and a bullet in my leg! What was I to do?” The voice belonged to Captain Harry Quinn, commander of A company. Quinn was the kind of ‘Gentleman’ who knew
he was better than most, and he delighted in telling anyone who would listen. His stories, however, were often exaggerated to the point of fantasy. But, to the young ensigns and lieutenants gather round him, he was a hero. Eagerly, they begged him to continue.
“So I grabbed a musket lying on the ground, and clubbed the Frog so hard I almost sent him back to France!” Satisfied, with a smug look on his face, he took a long draw on his pipe while the officers around him frantically discussed their hero.
“It seems the Honourable Captain has been telling stories again, Tom. Shall we find somewhere else to eat?” John despised the Captain – apparently their two families were engaged in an ongoing feud. Horne had decided that if Quinn’s family were anything like him, they should be avoided.
“It’s alright, John. This is our mess as well – there’s no reason we shouldn’t breakfast here” And with that, Horne sat at the nearest table, and called for their breakfast to be served.
“Ah, Lieutenants Horne and Gates. I don’t remember seeing you in the thick of it the other day” Quinn had saw them sit down, and seemingly couldn’t resist a dig at their expense.
“I’m not surprised, Quinn. I heard you were knocked unconscious by a rifle butt, and didn’t wake up until it was over!” John couldn’t restrain himself. Horne had warned him about his temper before, especially when senior ranks were involved, but he didn’t care.
“I’ll ignore that slight on my good name, Lieutenant
Gates. I, unlike you, don’t let personal issues get in the way of service. Why, you’re lucky I don’t call you out for that!” That was not good. Horne knew the Captain’s words would only persuade John towards a course of action that such an insult demanded.
John stood up, brushed his coat with his hands, and drew a glove from his pocket. He approached the Captain’s table, and dropped the glove onto the man’s breakfast plate.
“If you wish to settle this matter honourably, Captain, you may contact me anytime” Quinn’s normally rosy complexion had turned ashen, in shock. John, Horne and most of the Regiment’s officers knew Quinn to be a blowhard – big on talk, small on action. He’d decline, and save face – he didn’t have the stomach for such a matter, even with his talk of gentlemanly conduct.
“That…that won’t be ne…necessary Lieutenant. I’m willing overlook the matter if you’ll retract your challenge” Quinn was struggling to get his words out. Satisfied, John recovered his glove and returned to his seat, a grin on his face. He whispered to Horne.
“That shut the fool up!” Horne didn’t think it funny. Dueling was dangerous, and a quick way to end one’s life. It was, for all intents and purposes, outlawed in the army, by the Marquess of Granby himself.
“That was a dangerous move, John. I’d have seconded you, of course, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if just for once Quinn accepted your challenge” Horne sat back in his chair, slyly catching a look at Quinn. He was frozen still, still taken aback by John’s challenge.
When the mess steward finally brought them their breakfast, it was ten o’clock. Horne couldn’t keep the Lieutenant Colonel waiting. Dejectedly, he forfeited breakfast and proceeded up the stairs to what was serving as the Lieutenant Colonel’s office. The adjutant outside, a sniveling Lieutenant by the name of Dodd, knocked on the door and showed Horne in.
Stood behind what looked to be a large oak banquet table, strewn with maps, requisition orders and reports was a handsome fifty-something man in the deep scarlet uniform of a British colonel. As the two junior officers entered, he turned sharply to return their salutes.
Horne had only met the Regiment’s commander twice before – when he entered the regiment almost a year and a half ago, and a few months ago when, during a regimental dinner, he’d asked “That fellow Thorn to pass the salt”. But no matter what people said about his capacity for remembering names, Lieutenant Colonel Claiborne Wood had developed a fearsome reputation on the field.
But this time, instead of getting his name wrong, he smiled warmly at Horne.
“Thomas, my boy! Congratulations! Sit, please” He directed Horne to a chair around a smaller table, laid out with crystal glasses and a decanter filled with claret. “Drink, lad?”
Horne was surprised that Wood was so concerned with his comfort – he could have had his adjutant pour drinks, but he did it himself. Handing Horne a glass of the deep red wine, he sat in a chair opposite and took his own glass.
“Now, to business. Your promotion is being confirmed by the regimental officer as we speak. But there are… other matters I would discuss with you” Intrigued, Horne motioned for his superior to continue.
“Am I right in thinking that you spent time in Paris with your Uncle before the war?” That seemed a strange question, but he answered honestly.
“That’s correct, Sir. I was staying with my Great Uncle, the Duc de Gracay, and was invited to study at the University, as the Duc had influence there, but that was five years ago” It seemed longer, especially with three years of war in between. He missed those three months in Paris – the sights, and the people were unlike anything he had encountered.
Wood sat back in his chair, and rubbed his index fingers together. What he would ask next, so calmly, shocked Horne.
“How would you like to go and see your Great Uncle again?” The words still didn’t sink in. He had to ask, even if he looked foolish doing so.
“Sir? Surely it isn’t Prince Ferdinand’s intention to march on Paris?” Before Wood could answer, the side door to the room opened, and a man wearing the uniform with all the style and grandeur of a British General entered. It was none other than John Manners, the Marquess of Granby.
Horne rose immediately, but noted that Wood remained seated.
“Please, be seated, Lieutenant. That’s enough, Claiborne. Show him the package.”
Wood chuckled as he reached inside his coat, and handed Horne a tied up package of papers, bearing the seal of his Great Uncle.
“Your Great Uncle is passing us intelligence on the dealings in Versailles, but we stopped receiving his reports three weeks ago.” Granby elaborated.
“You’re a fluent speaker of French, and you know Paris well. We want you to defect.” Granby leant against the desk, looking square at the Lieutenant.
Horne was aghast. The very notion of betraying King and Country was offensive. He almost said as much, before the Marquess continued.
“You won’t really be defecting of course, but it would be impossible for you to simply go to Paris. We’ve prepared false intelligence documents – troop movements, requisition lists and other information. You will, upon your surrender to the French, claim you are my adjutant, and that you were bringing this information to them, in exchange for asylum”
“And then, my Lord?”
“And then, you will likely be interrogated, and released, or placed in the service of His Majesty King Louis, meaning you will be free to travel to Paris and find your Uncle. When you do, you will escort him to Berlin, to our Prussian allies”
Granby gave Horne a few moments to comprehend the task before him. He had longed to see Paris again, but not during wartime, when he should be with his men, and now, his company. But he was well suited to the mission – and he was fond of his Great Uncle, from what little he remembered of his visit.
Wood leant forward, and gazed at Horne.
“Well, m’boy? D’you accept?”
“Aye, Sir. I’ll do it” Granby grinned as he heard the young man’s acceptance.
“Excellent, Captain Horne. My aide-de-camp will brief you fully here tonight, 5pm sharp.” He stood upright, away from the table, and put his Tricorne on, before straightening his coat.
“Now, Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, there’s 32,000 men that require my attention” The other two men present rose, bowed slightly, as he turned, he stopped, turned around and looked at Horne.
“I trust you’ll share this information with no-one, Captain?”
“Of course not, my Lord” Granby smiled, shook his head, and left the way he had came.
Wood turned to Horne. It was time that Horne left too, judging by his pocket watch, he’d spent almost an hour here. John would be wondering where he’d gotten to.
“I suggest you have your aide begin packing. Tomorrow, you head for Paris”
He still had trouble comprehending it all. Three days ago he’d been killing Frenchmen. Soon, he’d be joining them.