He stopped smiling. If Fraser was amused, he was hiding it for the sake of his guest, who clearly wasn’t: Tawell really was the true Temperance killjoy it seemed. Robert pocketed the pipe and tobacco.
‘Maybe later,’ he said.
The three sipped from their respective drinks, Robert and William tea, John water.
‘I suppose there’s no way to control the drinking and debauchery,’ Tawell said, breaking the silence. ‘We’ll just have to keep on preaching the Lord’s word and look to those who seek our aid.’
‘Aye,’ said William. ‘I suppose if there’s no convincing the Governor to influence the supply of grog, then that’s the only course.’
‘Well there’s more than one way to skin a cat,’ Robert said.
William took another sip of tea.
‘What do you mean, sir?’ asked Tawell.
Robert couldn’t believe what he was about to suggest, but neither could he back out of it now. Still, the Tawell looked a man of meagre means. What was the harm?
‘Well,’ he said, ‘just that, I mean, why rely on the Governor to control supply? If you were to buy out all the grog in town, then there’d be none for the rest of ’em to quaff.’
He smiled, broadly.
‘Yes,’ Tawell said stiffly, ‘well if you’re just going to make preposterous suggestions, Mr McInnes, I believe I’ll take my leave. I’ll not be mocked.’
‘Now, now, Mr Tawell,’ soothed Fraser, ‘no one is mocking you. What is so preposterous about Mr McInnes’ suggestion?’
‘Come now, Mr Fraser, you’re well aware that the Temperance Society has modest means.’
‘Is that not,’ Fraser asked, placing his tea cup on a side table, ‘why you came to see me today?’
Tawell looked down at his hands.
‘Well, I’d not be so bold, Mr Fraser, as to…’
‘Then let me, Mr Tawell, make bold,’ William said forcefully. ‘Let me, sir, say that I find Mr McInnes speaks great sense, and that I will gladly help you to make a powerful point of protest! What do you say to that, sir?’
Robert was beginning to feel a little uneasy. The thought of being responsible for drying out the whole Cove was more than he had signed up for.
‘Well sir,’ Tawell said, ‘for that amount there are many good works our Society could achieve…’
‘I’ll hear nothing of that,’ Fraser interrupted. ‘This idea of Robert’s is the best, nay, the only way you’ll get the Governor to pay attention, and it’s the only way you’ll get my support.’
Tawell was cowed into acquiescence. He nodded consent.
‘Good man,’ Fraser said. ‘Now you’ll need some strong arms to help you, but I’d warrant you won’t find a single trustworthy soul in the Cove who’d agree to this little job, at least none who’d leave the grog untouched, right, Robert?’
McInnes nodded. The matter was proceeding apace, he was having trouble keeping up.
‘So we’ll need some men from out of town…’
‘The Castle Dounie?’
‘The very thing, Mr Tawell! Now, as to the money. You will forgive me if I wish to remain at some distance from these events…’