‘He was in The Cove for a few months, a while ago, said he’d put on a man on down at his farm to look to his flock. Then he was spending days at a a time getting Billy Blue to take him back and forth all over the harbour. Got so it was nigh on impossible to get passage over to North Shore. Eventually Billy told him he’d had enough, worried someone else might cut into his regular trade. So then he got a few fishermen to take him, til a whale knocked them fair over and near drowned them all. Ever since then he’s been back on his farm, but they say he’s got some of the shipbuilders over on North Shore building some crazy contraption or container or something.’
Sure enough, it was the next day that Fraser knocked on Robert’s door. Robert had, based on William’s agitation when they parted company, expected that his employer would have been exceedingly anxious to take possession of the reply, but was pleasantly surprised to find him relaxed and good humoured. They took tea in the parlour and exchanged pleasantries. The wool business was treating Fraser very well indeed, especially since he’d bought some merinos from MacArthur. Eventually, it was Robert who brought matters to a head.
‘I expect you’ll be wanting your reply then,’ he said, rising from his seat to retrieve it from the sideboard.
‘Yes, yes,’ William replied, somewhat dismissively. ‘And how is my brother, Robert?’
‘Thomas, Lord Lovat.’
Robert inclined his head slightly in surprised curiosity.
‘He seemed well enough,’ he said, handing over the sealed document.
William took the letter from him, broke open the seal and quickly read the note inside. Robert had been present when it was written and, though he was unaware of its import, he knew that it had taken almost not time at all for Lord Lovat to write. Robert was smiling broadly, and, standing to move to the window that looked down on the Cove, passed the letter to read.
‘Brother,’ it read, ‘Spare no expense. Lovat.’
‘I knew he’d agree!’ William said, clasping one hand in the other behind his back. ‘And just as well, the money I’ve spent already.’
He returned to his seat, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, eyes glinting.
‘Well, Robert, well done. Very well done. Now, I wonder, would you care to continue to assist me in this little endeavour, eh?’
He reached into his jacket pocket and handed over some coins.
‘The rest of your fee.’
‘William, I’m not actually sure what you’re talking about, but I confess the look in your eye and the magic words ‘Spare no expense’ have me intrigued.’