Sabre of Honour – A Napoleonic Novel
In the days that followed Lord Castlemaine’s ball, Peter had a spring in his step. Inspired by the promise of an illicit rendezvous with Mary, he failed to notice that not only had Rufus become much friendlier, but he was never far from his step-brother. Rufus, however, knew in his heart that Peter’s assignation in the garden would develop. And indeed, it did.
The moon, now in its last quarter, was mostly hidden by clouds scudding across the sky as Peter moved from the cover of the trees to a door at the rear of Sir James Pendleton-Ford’s stately mansion. Besotted by Mary, Peter had decided to risk meeting his lover at her home, for she had assured him that Sir James would definitely be away. Rufus, however, had bribed one of the household staff to bring any note addressed to Peter directly to him.
Having carefully opened the seal, Rufus could hardly contain his delight. Mary’s handwritten note laid bare her plans for an adulterous escapade with Cornet Count Branicki. Here was the instrument that would secure his revenge, and enable him to destroy his upstart step-brother.
Rufus cautiously resealed the envelope, making sure that the coat of arms on the seal was intact. Examining the envelope, he was confident that in his haste to see what his lover had written, Peter would never notice the faint smudging of the wax that might give away the fact that it had already been opened.
With Sir James at his shoulder, Rufus watched contentedly as Peter glanced furtively around before entering the mansion through an unlocked door. As he vanished inside, he turned to Sir James.
‘Torn as I was by loyalty to my step-brother and a fellow officer,’ he whispered convincingly, ‘my conscience wouldn’t allow me to keep silent. I couldn’t live in the knowledge that he might engage in nefarious congress with your faithless young wife.’
‘Damn the man,’ hissed Sir James, ‘I didn’t believe it possible. And damn Mary too! But now I must unmask this unprincipled roué; this depraved rake and that harlot—my deceitful spouse.’
Minutes later, a door crashed open as Sir James stormed into his bed-chamber. Startled at this interruption, Peter and Mary were embracing each other. A look of horror crossed their faces. Both were naked.
‘You are scum sir,’ growled Sir James in a voice laced with menace and controlled anger, ‘leave my house immediately. And you Mary—you’re no better than a common whore; I’ll deal with you later.’
By now, Peter was scrambling into his trousers and shirt, determined to beat a hasty retreat.
‘I owe your step-brother a debt of thanks,’ hissed Sir James, ‘and he will, I’m sure, agree to act as my second. For as God is my witness, I’ll see you dead this very day!’
By now Sir James was trembling with rage.
‘So understand me now, you worthless piece of shit,’ he yelled. ‘I’m calling you out. If you’ve a shred of decency left in you, you’ll face me in a duel and give me satisfaction. Aye; the satisfaction of seeing a musket ball end your useless life.’
‘If I may interrupt, Sir James,’ said Rufus with a barely concealed grin, ‘it’s too late to arrange a duel today. I’m happy to act as your second, but my step-brother will need to find a second before any duel can take place.’
‘So be it,’ snarled Sir James. ‘Let’s agree to five in the morning at Shepherd’s Spinney the day after tomorrow. But realize this Cornet Branicki; your execution has merely been delayed by twenty four hours. Make peace with God young man. I’m an expert shot and I never miss!’