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Checkmateby Dorothy Dunnett
Synopses & Reviews
Liepard laisse au ciel extend son oeil
Un aigle autour du soleil voyt s'esbatre.
Quand ceux du pole arctiq unis ensemble
Et Orient grand effrayeur et crainte.
What the celebration at the castle had been, Austin Grey never discovered. He rode in to his tryst at the Tournai and found the inn ankle-deep in drunk burghers, thronging the common room and spilling out into the courtyard where inoffensive travellers like himself were attempting to sup their bread and mutton and chicory salad in the airless July dusk of Douai.
He avoided using his title. Money, and a steady, effective insistence, procured a room for him. There he removed the dust of his two days' journey through French-speaking Flanders from Calais.
He had meant to dine indoors, but the heat and the smells forced him down to the yard where he cut food as best he could, between the elbows of a wheezing book-pedlar and a talkative merchant from Antwerp, playfully intent on the bodice-strings of the serving-maids. A group of students somewhere under the gallery were hymning cuckoldry (co co co co dae) with an artistry worthy of a Magnificat; and a pair of fishmongers, locked in liquescent brotherhood, reeled up and sent his cup rolling. A black-eyed Piedmontese slid past, limping, with a dubbed duckwing cock churring under his elbow.
There was no sign so far of the man he had come to Flanders to rescue. Austin Grey sat, seemingly quite at his ease, expertly deflecting the attention aroused by his uncommon good looks and reviewed, without pleasure, the mission he owed to his uncle, of the English fortress at Guines, beside Calais.
'If Francis Crawford wishes to leave Western Europe, ' irritably had said Lord Grey of Wilton, 'then it is England's duty to help him. Do you want him to lead the French armies into battle against us? Do you want him to go home to Scotland and encourage his countrymen to cross the Border and march into England? If he intends to go back to Russia, I for one will be happy to send him. You have his message. There is no doubt that it is authentic. Go to Douai and fetch him. You won't be in any danger. He's already thirty miles on the wrong side of the French frontier if he's got there. He'll be skulking, not you.'
And seeing the sleek, grey-bearded head turning to other business already-'You have considered, ' had said Austin Grey gently, 'that this may be a French trap?'
And his uncle, an irascible but by no means unjust man, had laid down his pen. 'This I can tell you. If anyone else here were able to recognize Crawford of Lymond or be recognized by him, I should send him in your place. But I really cannot see any man laying an ambush for you at Douai, with Pembroke and the whole English army to one side of him and King Philip at Valenciennes on the other.
'We are invading France, Austin; and this man, if he stayed in France, could be a danger to us. It is enough to know that the French will not lightly release him, and that he has turned to us for help.
'You dislike him, ' had said Lord Grey, folding his hands and raising the combed grey beard at his nephew. 'You cannot possibly dislike him as much as I have reason to do. But you will go to Douai. You will tell no one your mission; and you will take the most excellent care that no one discovers that Crawford has crossed into Flanders. For much as I esteem our lady Q
Returning to France to take up arms against England, soldier-scholar Francis Crawford achieves great success on the battlefield, but the dark secrets of his past return to haunt him, in the epic conclusion of the Lymond Chronicles. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
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About the Author
\Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Her time at Gillespie's High School for Girls overlapped with that of the novelist Muriel Spark. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. In 1946, she married Alastair Dunnett, later editor of The Scotsman.
Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland.
She also led a busy life in public service, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001, at the age of 78.
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