‘Won’t it rot by the time you get to England?’
‘Well, I’ll have to store it in alcohol, it’s true, but I can get that and a jar from Doctor Wells easily enough.’
Fraser looked over Robert’s shoulder to the Commander’s assistant.
‘And what of the Governor? Doesn’t he object?’
‘Why should he? Some of the Redcoats are my suppliers, and even if they had a problem ye just have to know how to talk to them.’
He showed Fraser a tattoo on his forearm, but could see it meant nothing to the man.
‘You’re a soldier?’
‘I know how to use a musket and sabre. Nineteenth Light Dragoons,’ Robert nodded. ‘At least I was at Waterloo. Saw worse than that,’ he said, looking down at the sack.
Fraser seemed to have gained some satisfaction by William’s answers, he contemplated them to himself as he took the last of his rum.
‘Mr McInnes, I wonder if I might put a proposition to you? My only fear is that you might find it beneath your talents and experience.’
Robert raised his eyebrows, shrugged and nodded.
‘I wouldn’t ask, were it not the case that you were returning to Scotland in any event,’ the other man explained, ‘and it is a matter of some… sensitivity, requiring a good measure of confidentiality. You seem like an honourable enough fellow, and your interest in the… extraordinary, shall we say, does much to commend you to me. I cannot say very much at the moment, for I must research the matter further to confirm my suspicions. Suffice it to say that I require your services to deliver to my family estate a letter, a letter that I cannot entrust to anything other than hand delivery, and to return to me written confirmation that it has been received. I will pay you well for your services.’
Robert was intrigued, he knew that he was going to take up the task, if only to find out what was behind William Fraser’s agitation.
‘Something extraordinary, ye say…’
‘Please, Mr McInnes, I can say no more for now. Let us hope that I am right, and that I can divulge more on your return.’
He looked hopefully at McInnes, gauging the impact that his words were having. McInnes revealed nothing by his posture, carefully sipping his rum.
‘Well, I suppose that’s fair enough, Mr Fraser,’ he said, nodding his assent.
‘William,’ Fraser said, extending his hand.
‘Fair enough, then, William,’ he said, shaking on their agreement, ‘call me Robert.’
The twelve month round trip back to Sydney Cove was relatively uneventful*. As expected, Robert secured a fine price for his collection , which he sold as a lot to a private collector in London. He delivered the letter as promised, and took possession of the sealed reply. In Glasgow he found and wed a young woman named Mary, and they returned to Sydney with a collection of furniture with which to establish their new household. Although his house was finely built it was, politely put, sparsely furnished, and it was only fair that his new wife should have as many of the comforts of home that would mitigate against the rigours of colonial life. Still, to be fair, it was a healthier life than in Glasgow, and the sea air had already done wonders for her complexion.
Once she was ensconced in her new surroundings, Robert sauntered down Cumberland, through the lane ways to George Street to deliver the reply to William. On the way he passed Ryan’s Place, so he stopped in for a drink and to catch up on events in his absence. Eventually, Ryan told him that Fraser had been in looking for him.
*See ‘The restocking expedition’.