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A Gunfight

by

Bob Chassanoff

St Louis, Missouri. The time was December, 1872. Christmas went on all around him. Soft snowflakes swirled down outside in the cold, dark night, but inside it was warm and pleasant. Jason had a two-room suite at a comfortable hotel. He should have been lonely, with no family, but Jason wasnít; Fiona McEwen was there taking stock of herself in front of the full length mirror. She was fretting over uncooperative bloomers and a bodice that exposed one-eighth of an inch too much cleavage. Fiona scowled at the problem in that petulant way she had. Jason lay on the bed resting on feather pillows, waiting for her.

Jason was ready, being careful of his black wool trousers and white, ruffled linen shirt. He was slowly nursing a short brandy and a cigar, resting on the night table. They were going out to dinner.

A timid knock on the door interrupted Jasonís watching of Fiona struggling with her undergarments. He went to the sitting room and opened the outer door to face a short, thin man, dressed in a wrinkled suit and overcoat. A gloved hand with a handkerchief was retreating from his nose, just as his head tilted back to let go a massive sneeze. Jason jumped back and barely saved his shirt and trousers. It was a close call to his only proper dress clothes.

Jason got the stranger seated with a large whiskey and stood a safe distance away. His cold was terrible and he looked miserable. "Iím Lawrence Keene, a lawyer from New York."

After Jason convinced Keene he was, indeed, Jason Pike, past commander of the Sixth Ohio Cavalry and currently working as a United States Deputy Marshal, Keene told Jason why he had come.

"Iím representing Sir James Kenyon, a London barrister. Heís in New York, bedridden after a rough November crossing of the Atlantic. He came to America to discuss the details of your inheritance," Keene said, pausing to wipe his nose, and looking up, Jason knew, for a reaction to what he said. Jason showed no expression, mainly because he didnít know what Keene was talking about, and decided to keep his ignorance to himself.

"Continue, sir."

"Sir James is elderly; in fact, heís ancient. He requests you come to New York. Sir James was a very close friend and confidant of your grandfather, Sir Alfred Pike. The estate is quite substantial."

A grandfather? An estate? What was this nonsense? Jasonís father had emigrated from Liverpool in 1838 to take up farming in the Ohio Valley. He had told his wife and son that he was an orphan. There had never been any mention of, or communication from family left behind in England. Yet Jasonís father had been well-spoken as if he had had a privileged education, usually reserved for the wealthy. Now Jason knew why; live and learn.

Fiona appeared from behind the doorway. Her dress was pale blue; and it narrowed from several petticoats wide at the floor, to her thin waist, then up to envelop and accentuate her breasts. Fionaís knowing smile told Jason she had heard all the pneumonia-bound lawyer had to say.

"Oh, Sweet Jesus! Pike, youíre already an insufferable and unscrupulous bastard. Even worse youíll be, now that youíre rich through no endeavor of your own," she said in a Scottish brogue she had inherited from her father. "A gift from providence, I very much doubt, will improve you."

Jason took Fiona to New York. That helped. They went shopping and saw several plays. Fiona had never been east before and was very impressed with the sophistication the cities offered, while at the same time despising the crowded and unhealthy conditions.

On the second morning after their arrival, Jason went to see Sir James in his suite at an expensive hotel. Sir James was a tall, old fellow stooped over with age, sporting a grandiose mustache, and thick bushy sideburns that covered most of his veiny, red cheeks. The room was overly plush and too warm, from a well-drafted stove.

Sir James offered cognac in a delicately cut crystal glass. "Your grandfather and I were particularly fond of this batch. Itís lasted a lifetime. This is the last bottle. I brought it for you to sample," he said, sitting on a chaise and tossing a Scottish plaid blanket over his legs. Jason stood by the window, glancing down at the busy street.

"It was in the English Channel, 1825. Your grandfather and I were midshipmen on HMS Windfire, an old frigate. We came upon a French cargo brig that was floundering on the shoals, and we pulled their crew to safety aboard Windfire. Afterward, the French captain sent us a dozen cases of this cognac."

"Very generous," Jason commented. Sir James must be as old as he looked.

"He was from a wealthy family. His parents probably sent it," the old man said.

Jason sipped the delicate, strong beverage and found it exceptional. "This is wonderful."

"Iím curious about the falling-out that must have occurred between Sir Alfred and my father, George Pike. Dad never mentioned his background, yet we all sensed he had seen more of what life offered than most other men."

"Your father, George, was a nonconformist," Sir Jamesí voice took on a vile disgusted tone. "A bloody dissenter, a liberal for Godís sake, he was more concerned about the laboring class than his own family and heritage. Never have I seen someone reject such a birthright, a legacy most men can only hope to dream about. And yet it was an era when it was quite fashionable to be intense about oneís political convictions. They finally had a great, noisy fight and your father went off to America to till the soil like a commoner. Youíre certainly more of a fitting example of your family line."

"I donít understand. How so?" Jason asked innocently.

"Dear boy, youíre a soldier. Your ancestors were all warriors, always willing and damned bloody-well competent at defending the Crown. Your great-grandfather was at Waterloo with Wellington. His brother commanded a ship of the line in Nelsonís squadron at Trafalgar, died there, and was brought home to England, preserved in a barrel of brandy, for a glorious funeral just as Nelson was. Your uncle John, your fatherís younger brother, was a lieutenant in the Light Brigade; he died at Balaclava charging the Russian artillery. He was the finest horseman your family produced, except, of course, possibly for you," the patronizing old British lion paused and smiled approvingly at Jason, who nodded graciously, but really wanted to pull on the old manís whiskers.

"Sir Alfred traced your lineage and name back to a common Saxon pikeman in Henry the Vís army at Agincourt in 1415, when English longbows trounced the proud French knights and their men at arms." He raised the cut glass with the last of the French cognac in toast of old victories. "God save Queen Victoria."

Jason stood for his toast, feeling quite self-conscious. He sipped the cognac and Sir James kept talking; but Jason thought back to a day very early in the war, when his only concern was harvesting wheat.

His father walked up to him and said, "John Sherman has urged me to raise a company of volunteer infantry. I have to do it. I left England a long time ago because of the way the rich treated the laboring classes. I felt guilty about my place in that society. I wonít run away again."

That was all he ever told Jason about his past. George Pike went off at the first call for volunteers and died leading his Ohio infantry against Stonewall Jacksonís brigade at Bull Run. For Jason, it was an absurd shock to find out now his father had deserted a family and holdings in England.

"Excuse me, what did you say?" Jason asked Sir James.

"After your fatherís death, Sir Alfred commissioned a firm in New York to keep track of your movements, send him clippings of your exploits. He was pleased at your quick rise to command and the brilliance of your regimentís conduct. He was so happy he wept when the account of your raid on Ashland and the news of General Leeís surrender came. He pranced about our club claiming that by destroying Leeís supply depot you had won the whole bloody war with one regiment. Then a member queried why he was so ecstatic over your victory, if you were related. Your grandfather, always a slave to his pride, just grumbled and slunk away rather than acknowledge that you were his grandson."

Jason paced back and forth across the wide sitting room. "There were a few others with me at Ashland," Jason offered modestly.

"Why all the covert surveillance?" Jason asked. "Why didnít the old gentleman just come out and say `helloí, if he was so proud of what I did? The bad feelings should have ended at Bull Run when my father died, still dedicated to the laboring class, by the way."

Sir James ignored the taunt. "Sir Alfred had a tragic flaw common to some well-bred Englishmen." He pointed a bony white finger at Jason, "Your grandfather had too much pride. He feared you would reject him just as your father did."

"Whatís all this leading to, Sir James?" Jason asked, having lost some patience.

"Your inheritance, of course. Your grandfather changed his will from your cousin Rudolphís favor to yours this summer, just before he grew ill."

"Cousin Rudolph?"

"Your grandparents only had three children, George your father, John, and Jessica. John died in the Crimean War. Jessica, your aunt, married Heinrick Von Deisten. He was a Prussian industrialist. They are both gone now. Rudolph Von Deisten, their only child and your cousin is a colonel in the army and ardently supports Count Bismarck. There normally would not be so much concern in Her Majestyís Government, except most of Sir Alfredís estate consists of ownership of munitions factories and naval armaments foundries. Do you know of Bismarck and understand the global implications?" the old walrus asked.

Now it began to make sense to Jason. All the propaganda about the glories of soldiering and sailing for England had to be leading somewhere. With the unification of Germany complete and the emphasis on imperialism, easily supported by German militarism, it was apparent the German Hegemony would grow and presumably come to challenge Britainís far-flung colonial empire, in perhaps less than a generation. "Excuse me for being blunt and, I suppose, also rude. But what is the monetary value of this inheritance?" Jason asked.

"A very rough estimate might be in the neighborhood of one million pounds sterling."

"And my cousin is contesting the will?" Jason noted calmly.

"Yes. He is threatening to do just that. The case could be locked up in the courts for years and the factories shut down, idle."

"You need me to press my claim to keep this inheritance, consisting of munitions foundries, from falling to a growing and ambitious rival. Right, Sir James?" Jason studied the Englishmanís face.

Sir James stood tall and straight, as best he could, and said, "The Crown doesnít want Pike Ltd. to pass to the Prussians," his voice cracked and tears welled up in his wrinkled old eyes. "We canít have our lads ever have to advance on the fields of battle against cannon forged from machinery or expertise developed in Birmingham and Leeds."

Jason nodded. "Alright, I suppose this matter deserves further investigation and is worth a trip to Great Britain," Jason found himself saying as he sipped the last of the cognac. Jason sent Fiona home to Tucson with the promise of expensive presents upon his return.

Then Sir James and Jason took passage on a steamship to Bristol, England, and from there a train to London. Along the way he studied grandfatherís journal and a breakdown of his fiscal holdings. Alfred Pike had built an industrial empire, starting with the familyís blast furnace business in Liverpool, during the 1780s. Alfred developed new techniques for mounting both naval guns and, later, horse-drawn artillery. The patents alone made him a fortune and he used the money to open foundries in other cities, and his holdings multiplied. The Industrial Revolution had begun.

Sir James set Jason up at the Dorchester Hotel just off Hyde Park. The first bit of correspondence was an invitation to dinner with the American ambassador at his club. Henry Fitzsimmons was the Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. He was a big man with a pleasing smile and a direct manner. "A pleasure to meet you Mr. Pike," the ambassador said when they met in the foyer of the club.

"Christian names will do with me, Jason." And he offered his hand. But before they could start any conversation a short, energetic man, a British navy captain vigorously approached them and said, "Good evening, gentlemen. Ambassador Fitzsimmons." And he shook hands with the ambassador. He was in his early forties with coal black hair and cold, even features.

"Oh, good evening, Captain," Fitzsimmons said.

"Clane, sir. Robert Clane."

"Of course. Iím sorry, Captain Clane. I remember you now. When did we meet?" Fitzsimmons smiled. Jason liked a diplomat who didnít think it was a crime to forget someoneís name.

Clane was only slightly amused. "Several months ago at an Admiralty briefing. Sir James Kenyon told me I might run into you here."

So, he must be looking for Jason, if Kenyon sent him here. "Iím Jason Pike," he said to the naval officer.

The ambassador found them a table and they ordered a round of dark ale served up in heavy pewter mugs. Jason produced a cigar and the new silver clipper he had purchased that day from a Savile Row tobacconist.

"I work in procurement for the Royal Navy, Mr. Pike, and I do a great deal of business with Pike Ltd.," Clane said. "Iíll be brief, sir. To be perfectly honest, I have another appointment this evening."

"It will be refreshing to meet an Englishman who can speak his mind plainly." Jason smiled and enjoyed the Jamaican cigar.

"Sir James indicated to me that youíll fight, if you have to, to secure your inheritance. Is this true?"

"I never said that to Sir James. Thatís his evaluation of my past and my character. Captain, Iím not in a position to answer questions about what I intend to do. But if you have something to tell me about Pike Ltd., please proceed. Youíre my best customer."

Clane smiled, because Jason dropped the crucial hint he was seeking. That Jason was already working under the confident impression that Pike Ltd. was his without being crassly obvious, like the English expected of most Americans.

"Right now you have a stable of brilliant, innovative engineers and metallurgists. They are on the verge of new designs that could be extraordinary in the scope of this eraís naval gunnery."

Jason nodded and shrugged, "So?"

"If the Germans get Pike Ltd., we lose dies, molds, and patents. But whatís worse is that this team will be dispersed as they all go to seek new jobs. Theyíre on the brink of a new generation of naval gun. I came here to tell you that the future of Pike Ltd. is far greater, and her importance to Great Britain, than the firmís present value." They talked for a half hour and then Clane left.

At dinner the senior U.S. diplomat had only one message to convey. "I hope you can secure this inheritance," Fitzsimmons said, "keep the Brits happy, and not ferment any trouble between Washington and Berlin." Jason shrugged and smiled. What could he say; in this affair Jason was simply a pawn expecting to be well-paid.

The next morning Jason walked back and forth across Sir Jamesí office on Trafalgar Square. He stared out the bay window at the cold rain falling on Admiral Nelson, a good statue of a valiant sailor. "Umph," Sir James grumbled. "I have four daughters and they all married the laziest and most unimpressive turds they could find," he described his family.

"You took one of them into your firm. I met him. Whatís his name?" Jason asked.

"Exactly my point; he was the smartest ass amongst them, and completely forgettable."

Jason distinctly remembered the trend of the conversation that day, because it was when dear cousin Rudyís letter arrived. He wanted Jason to meet him in Belgium to discuss the estate.

"Why Belgium?" Jason asked.

"Because of Belgiumís duelling laws. If both participants are foreign nationals, the Belgium authorities take a blind eye, even if a fatality results," Sir James explained.

"Do they do that to encourage tourism?" Jason asked, pacing nervously around the office. Then he glanced at Sir James and saw disapproval in those ancient eyes. He walked right up to Sir James. "Iím not afraid to meet him. I just donít know a damn thing about those skinny blades Europeans duel with," Jason confessed. The Englishman laughed at Jasonís ignorance of duelling. What a crotchety old bastard he is, the American thought.

"Dear boy, youíre being challenged. Choose bullwhips or crossbows, sabers, rapiers, or pistols. You two can bloody well wheel out twelve-pound field pieces and take potshots at each other across a meadow. You choose the weapon, Jason!"

Jason nodded, "All right," he said slowly. "Thatís better; a gunfight." Sir James set it up for two weeks hence in a grove south of Dinant, a small village halfway between Waterloo and the crossroads at Bastogne.

Four days later Jason found himself in a field south of Ramsgate, a couple hundred meters from the White Cliffs. Sergeant Major Connors of the Royal Lancaster Rifles was going to give him some brushing up in the discipline of hand-held firearms. He was said to be something of an expert. "This is a British army revolver," he began, holding up a John Adams Mark II, .455 caliber, double-action handgun. "This is the cylinder. This is the barrel," he continued.

It was an hour before he let Jason shoot the damn thing and Jason shook his head. "Donít like it at all, balance is off," Jason criticized. He brought out his own Colt Peacemaker .45 with a seven-and-a-half-inch barrel. Jason gave the sergeant major a competent demonstration of frontier marksmanship until Connors seemed satisfied. Jason wondered what Her Majestyís Government would have done, if the sergeant major had thought his abilities were not up to this contest.

All too soon he found himself in a grove of sparse, leafless elms on a Sunday morning late in February, 1873, just south of the pleasant hamlet of Dinant. Jason was in a coach with Sir James and one of his poorly thought-of son-in-laws. Deisten was late and it was cold. "Punctual bloody Prussians late for their own damn duel," Sir James said vehemently, shuffling miserably about in his seat, hoping for friction from local movement to create some heat.

Jason got out to walk around, which seemed better than shivering in the coach. Finally they came; their coach stopped and the Prussian stepped out. Rudolph Von Deisten looked like Jason: black hair, tall and lean, cruel around the corners of his mouth, and his dark, intense eyes pricked Jason like cold, sleeting rain.

Jason was wearing a sheepskin coat and tan, denim trousers. The Prussian certainly had Jason outdressed, attired in an immaculate powder blue tunic, two ornamental vertical rows of brass buttons, and a blood-red sash over fine white trousers, and polished black boots. Rudolph also wore a peaked military cap.

"No points for looking dashing, my boy," Sir James whispered in Jasonís ear as he waved at cousin Rudy. How the hell did he know, Jason wondered.

The cousins walked toward each other, and Rudolph bowed, clicking his heels in that pretentious Prussian habit that irritated most Englishmen and all Americans. "I wish to thank you for coming, Captain Pike. I am sorry the circumstances are not more congenial," ventured Rudolph.

"Yes, me too," Jason said, feeling very uncomfortable with this conversation.

"You must be a brave man," Rudolph observed.

"And also one of considerable skill," Jason added. "We are both warriors, colonel. There can be no other way for men such as we chose to be."

"We could have been comrades under different circumstances," Rudolph said. "But the gods chose to make us mortal enemies; there is no changing that. I am sorry."

"I agree." And they shook hands.

"I have here Captain Pike and Colonel Deistenís procedures for the duel," said the Dutchman, a neutral retained by Sir James and Deistenís counsel. "As agreed to previously by both parties: the weapons are to be modern revolvers of individual choice. The procedure is straightforward. Both combatants will face off at one hundred meters and commence walking toward each other. You both fire at will. The duel ends when one of you is not willing, or able, to continue. This will be signaled by dropping your pistol," the Dutchman finished.

Two portable tables were set up a few feet apart. Sir James had his son-in-law lay out Jasonís Colt .45 on one table and Deistenís companion used the other. The Peacemaker was less than three months old and the performance was flawless. The newly-designed pistol was a promotional gift to Jason, because of his United States Deputy Marshal status, from Samuel Colt and it would be offered to the public this year, 1873. A Colt factory gunsmith had worked the trigger assembly to react to a featherís touch, and the long rifled barrel was what Jason needed for this face-off.

Jason glanced at Deistenís Steinmetz eleven milimeter, (about a .41 caliber) double-action revolver with an even longer barrel than Jasonís Colt. The sharp crooked lines, not at all flowing like a Colt or Remington, were damned businesslike. It was such an ugly gun, it must be very precise. Deisten was.

Cousin Rudolph won the pistol championship for the German Army for the last three years. Sir James found that out two days after Jasonís terms for the duel left London for Berlin.

Jason had lost his temper at the time, and stormed around Sir Jamesí office. The old man comforted, "Why doubt your abilities. I donít. Sergeant Major Connors said you handle a pistol like Robin Hood with a bow."

"That is an absurd comparison. No one knows exactly how talented Robin Hood was with a bow and arrow, or even if he actually existed," Jason pointed out.

"Yes! Precisely," Sir James said, staring. "Youíre exactly the right man for the job, son."

"Donít call me, `soní, Sir James. I know what you think of your sons," Jason finished the exchange, thinking that, at worst, Sir James expected the duel to end in a tie.

Jason watched as Deisten vigorously cleaned the cylinder chambers, then the barrel. He was meticulous and exact. Deisten raised the barrel to the rising sun and rotated it slowly examining every surface, searching for any stray spec of dust or burnt powder that would dare remain. Sergeant Major Connors would have exhibited a bright smile at the detailed ceremony.

Then Jason decided to pay his cousin a compliment. When Jason had been in Europe selling artillery after the Civil War he had witnessed a battle. "I saw your brigade in action at Koniggrat. It was a proper and well-timed movement; impressive," Jason said, speaking about the Austro-Prussian War, while dismantling the Colt for a hasty last-minute inspection.

"It was a magnificent day." Rudolph smiled. "We won the war that day!" And they both laughed. What more could a soldier possibly ask for.

Sir James walked over, a serious countenance up front. "Jason, Rudolph," he sounded stern, fatherly, and mildly sad. "I trust you gentlemen will carry this through with a certain amount of decorum."

"Of course," Rudolph said, with another bow and boot-clicking. "Tell me, Sir James, are you still active with the British Foreign Service?" Rudolph queried. A bit late for that type of comment to unsettle Jason, he thought; a hint of desperation caused the Prussian to say that, a chink in his armor, a show of nerves.

"We all have conflicting interests, Rudolph. That is why we have this serene setting to let God choose the victor; rather this, especially for you two soldiers," the old lion parried dryly, "than a stuffy courtroom and verbose, powdery-wigged barristers dictating your fates, and more importantly your fortune."

Jason worked through his pistol slowly, so as not to finish far ahead of Rudolph. He did not want to stand around waiting for the Prussian. Finally they were both done. Deisten turned around smartly holding the Steinmetz at his side. Jason took off his heavy overcoat, and the cold wind immediately cut right through the white linen shirt he wore. No matter; this would not take long.

Jasonís tan leather belt had a narrow, low-cut holster on the left side. It was a worn and comfortable fit. The rawhide thong tied just above the knee held the holster low on his hip. The leather was still scented and moist from last nightís oil, as Jason dropped in Coltís new Peacemaker. He was ready.

"Cousin Jason," Rudolph said. Damn, Jason thought, knowing Rudolph was going to apologize for trying to kill him. "I am sorry for this affair. You do not have to do this for the British." he said distinctly, and none too quietly. Sir James looked at the ground rubbing his eyebrows, while he was groaning quietly. Then he rubbed his chin whiskers, mufflingĖwhat Jason decided wasĖa stream of curses.

"Donít think me a patriot, Cousin Rudolph. Iím not doing this for someone elseís queen or country. This is for the money," Jason said in a deadly, serious voice, "Drop that revolver. Go home right now, or Iíll kill you," meeting Rudolph eye to eye. The Prussian shook his head, and they both respectfully nodded at each other.

Jason walked to the south end of the clearing, and they faced off at a previously marked one hundred meters. Deisten held his pistol straight up, arm bent at the elbow in the regular duelling pose. Jason sneered at the confident Hun bastard, and Rudolph smiled back. There were no hints of a lack of confidence now.

Jason would have to be in top form today. A self-inflicted pep talk was in order. If his first round went off center, move quickly and count on that swift, steady aim as the front sight moved about the target. Those reflexes got Jason through the war and the barroom antagonists afterward.

The strategy was simple; get close enough to shoot effectively. But of course matters of life and death grew infinitely more intricate. The nuances of a gunfight were like those of a poker game, but more important because the stakes were higher. The movement of an eye, the twitch of a cheek muscle, the reflexive jerk of a nervous thumb tendon: all of these and a host of similarities just as subtle could set things off prematurely.

The Dutchman signaled the start of the duel with a drop of his pudgy arm and a hasty retreat behind his coach. Jason began walking evenly and slowly, his left hand dangling at the pistolís grip. No more posturing banter; only shootistsĖdeadly seriousĖclosing on each other.

Jason quickly calculated how fast he was walking. How quickly did the ground go by? He wanted to shoot at thirty-one meters. It should have been just a little longer than what Rudolph was used to, Jason hoped, but still within his abilities. Jason did not want to get within thirty meters of that devil of Prussian efficiencyĖthe man or the pistol.

Five seconds had passed, and another fifteen or seventeen would bring them thirty-five meters apart. No more time for that. Watch the Prussian; watch the eyes. Jason focused.

They were closer and Jason could see his eyes well now. The American glanced about one last time, breaking his own cardinal rule, the Elms, the sun, and the glade. Then it was thirty-five meters . . . thirty-four . . . thirty-three . . . thirty-two. The arm with the Steinmetz dropped. The Prussian turned to give Jason his narrow right side, as the black muzzle of the barrel lusted toward him.

Jasonís right knee buckled, left leg thrusting out as his torso dropped down. He saw the smoke of the discharge and felt the chill of whistling death close by his ear, even as he heard the pistol boom. It was just instinct, reflex now, instantaneous. As his left foot stamped down on the soft, rotting winter leaves, the Colt was out, cocked, his left arm leveling as his right knee hit the ground. With swift and practiced alignment of eye, rear sight, front blade sight, and the targetĖa patch of blue cloth just under a manís armpit, inches from brass buttons on his chestĖthe Colt sent forth its deadly charge. The cylinder turned, the Peacemaker ready to speak again.

Deistenís correct uniform was splotched with a messy crimson hole in his side. He stepped back faltering, but turned to face Jason, raising the Steinmetz again. It never could have occurred to him to drop the pistol. His motions were sluggish and his brain stunned, a dying manís vain gesture to duty. Jason put the next round dead center, smashing Rudolphís breastbone to sharp splinters through his lungs and heart. He fell back and twisted over on the ground.

Jason holstered the Colt and walked toward his cousin. The doctor took only seconds to confirm Rudolph Von Deistenís death. Jason dropped down to one knee by his cousinís body and picked up Rudolphís left hand. The small indentation of white skin on his fourth finger said something painfully obvious.

"You moved, dropped down," Rudolphís second said. "That wasnít honorable."

Jason shrugged. "Where I come from it is, and with Rudolph certainly necessary. Whereís his wedding band?" Jason said to Rudolphís companion.

"He took it off. Rudolph did not want you to know. You just made a soldierís wife a widow with two small sons," the second Prussian said sadly. Then he handed Jason a gold band and the American pushed it onto Rudolphís finger before they carried the colonel, and placed him in the coach. Rudolphís young family was just another inconsequential fact Sir James had not wanted to muddle up Jasonís simple, little colonial head with, and Jason had not thought to ask.

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