For as it stands, so Mr. M— remarked, the prince is left to guide the king and princess through the forest when he might have spared himself the effort, which he said in such a tone I knew he was not serious, for though we all must be indeed a weight upon him, he appears to carry it with ease, as he does everything.
I wasn’t the best at detecting emotional interplay, and I’d admittedly missed all the signs that Luc said showed MacPherson had fallen for Mary, but even I was aware of the quietly growing rapport between Mary and the Highlander. In the fortnight they’d spent stuck there waiting for Thomson to make his recovery, she’d written five times in her diary, and one of those entries was given entirely over to the day MacPherson had taken her into the city itself—to assist with translation while he bought supplies, or that at least had been Mary’s belief, though I knew as well as she did Madame Roy could have done that for him as well, and with less trouble on his part, for Mary still needed to ride the mule. But she’d had a splendid time from the sound of it, looking through the shops and stalls and admiring the ancient sights.
There is a most impressive tower and a temple and, against the southern city walls, an ancient amphitheater where the Romans set their warriors to fight with beasts and with each other, now so picturesquely run to ruins that I might have wandered all the day within it had not Mr. M— refused to let me wander. He is watchful of my ankle even though Madame Roy worked a Scottish charm upon it yestereve, tying three knots in a white linen thread that she held in her mouth while repeating a verse in her language, then winding the thread round my ankle where I am to leave it until it unravels itself. She says such a charm in the Highland tongue is called an oleless, or so it does sound to my ears, and will work without fail, and in truth I confess that already I feel an improvement, and will I feel sure be quite ready to walk on my own when we leave here a few days hence.
Summarizing all of this for Jacqui now, I said, “I haven’t gone beyond that, but I’m guessing that they’ll still be heading south.”
My cousin told me, “Yes, they’re going to Marseilles. I’ve done a bit of sleuthing myself this week.” It turned out she’d actually sent her assistant, the handsome and capable Humphrey, to Kew, to the National Archives, to search through their records for anything useful on Thomson. “Humphrey found a lot of letters flying back and forth between the government in London and the English ambassador in Paris, who had spies all over. Not the nicest people,” she pronounced them. “Keep your eyes open for any mention Mary might make in her diary of two Jacobites named Mr. Cole and Mr. Warren, in Marseilles.”
I jotted the names down. “Why?”
“Humphrey’s been reading their letters all week, and he thinks they’re both bastards. They shook Thomson’s hand and pretended to be his friend,” Jacqui said, “while they betrayed him.”
Now, like a dreadful wave afar, appeared the ship…
—Macpherson, “Fingal,” Book Three
March 31, 1732
“Mr. Warren.” Thomson shook the Irish banker’s hand with pleasure. “Kind of you to see us.”
“Mr.…Symonds, is it?”
Mary had expected him to be an older man, but he was somewhere between her own age and MacPherson’s, well dressed in the tidy immaculate way of most men who had dealings with money. She was glad she had taken the trouble to comb out her hair and repin it beneath the lace headdress she’d traded her spare pair of gloves for at Nîmes.
His office was in the Cours, the broad main street of Marseilles, which ran perfectly straight and was lined with twin rows of tall trees that lent shade to the benches and fountains beneath them. Mary had a clear view of the street and those trees from the chair that the banker held graciously out for her, close to the window.
He turned to his clerk. “Would you be so kind as to go call on Mr. Thomas Cole and ask him if he’s able to attend us? Thank you.”
When the clerk had gone, the banker closed the door and turned to them and smiled. “Now then, Mr. Thomson, let us have a proper introduction, sir. I’m glad to meet you.” As they shook hands for a second time he added, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived in town. I had expected, you see, that you’d come down through Avignon, and having business myself there just lately I tarried awhile there in anticipation of your coming. But you did not come through Avignon?”
MacPherson, standing quietly behind them, gave the answer. “No.”
“I see.” The young man looked up at the Scotsman with a quick assessing eye and wisely chose not to pursue the matter. “Are there only three of you?”
“Four, actually,” said Thomson. “We’ve a maid, who’s stayed to watch our things this morning. And our dog.”
“You have a dog as well?” The Irishman raised both his eyebrows slightly as though not sure how to manage such a curious assemblage. “Never mind, I’m sure we’ll find you something suitable. You wish to go by sea, I take it?”
“If we can. It will be quicker,” Thomson said.
“Indeed. And very much safer,” the banker replied. “You’ll avoid going through any other Dominions on your way to Rome, for ’tis sure the English ministers in Genoa and Leghorn have been told to keep a watch for you.”
MacPherson said, “We did not mention Rome.”
“Well no, you didn’t, fair enough. But that is where the king lives, is it not?” asked Warren. “Also, I’ve a letter from your banker, Mr. Wogan, writ from Paris with advice that if a package comes for you after you’ve left here, I’m to send it on to Rome. So I assumed.” His smile, self-deprecating, sought to charm, and seeing it had no effect upon the Scotsman he said in a mock aside to Thomson, “Has he always been this trusting?”