LJ 2018: Haunted Soldier - Part 1 - Inquisition (1st half)

Joined: 4:50 AM - Aug 07, 2017

4:34 PM - Jun 12, 2018 #1

LORD JOHN READALONG SPOILER POLICY: Please limit discussion to the events of the Lord John books/stories up to this point (Hellfire, Private Matter, Succubus, BotB) and the novels that precede/coincide with LJ (Outlander, Dragonfly, Voyager). To discuss LJ in the context of events from later in the series, please see the spoiler thread, here.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier by Diana Gabaldon
Part 1: Inquisition
P. 199 - 228 (Arrow Books edition)

(I was just about ready to hit Submit when suddenly, I lost the entire post and had to do it all over again.  Bollocks!  🙂  So apologies for typos and errors but I didn't take the time to proofread this post.)

Lord John Grey was in purgatory or, rather, a hallway in some nondescript mansion at Tower Place, part of the Arsenal at Woolwich, waiting to be called before a Royal Commission investigating what happened at Crefeld when the cannon blew up, killed a soldier, and grievously injured John.  Contemplating Hell, clocks, and portraits of early governors of the Arsenal, Major Grey heard and felt a huge boom from the bowels and threw himself to the ground, whereupon a functionary finally indicated the commission was ready for him.

John found himself facing three men seated behind a table and suddenly realized it was indeed an inquisition.  John tried to identify the men: perhaps a baronet or minor noble, Colonel Twelvetrees, and a plump gentleman who actually smiled at him, whom he later recalled was named Oswald.  A scribe was seated nearby to record the proceedings.  John sat ramrod straight and when questioned, obediently related the events surrounding the destruction of the cannon succinctly, with no extraneous description.  He wondered if any of his interrogators had ever been in battle.  Occasionally, he heard and felt rumbles below him.  John was asked about his prior experience with cannon and told of two times: In Scotland under General Cope during the Jacobite Uprising and more recently in Prussia.  He prayed that none of the men had heard about his humiliation at the hands of Red Jamie.  Even though it was nearly half a lifetime ago, John was unable to let go of the shame caused by the memory of what happened.

He learned that the gun was called Tom Pilchard.  Despite his best intentions of responding only with facts and “yes, sir; no, sir” replies, John couldn’t stop himself from saying they were never formally introduced.  Which caused Twelvetrees to give him a 10-minute lecture, which entertained the clerk, at least.  Suddenly, John remembers that the possible baronet was named Marchmont and
He asked John about Edgar DeVane.  Reminded that DeVane was his brother, John corrected him and said half brother.  Racking his brain to remember when he’d last seen his half brother, he said it was at last Christmas.  That was when Edgar’s family had come to London and John had acted as native bearer for wife Maude and their two daughters.  (Did anyone else conjure Kipling at the turn of phrase?).

The inquisitors were, for some unknown reason to John, harping on when he was in contact with Edgar.  John honestly couldn’t remember and said he rarely spoke or wrote to him, written correspondence coming from Maude not Edgar, though John assumed his brother was literate.

Rumbles continued periodically.

The interrogation moved on to questions about Lieutenant Lister.  John averred knowing anyone by that name, though he could guess who it was and, indeed, Philip Lister was the soldier whose head was blown off when the cannon exploded.  Once again, John made a snarky reply and all three men looked at him scornfully and asked if he was being impertinent.  John said absolutely not out loud, though his inner thoughts belied that.  He told and retold what happened, in as factual a manner as possible.  Meanwhile, his left arm, the one that had been broken, ached, he was sweating, the guns below kept going off, and John was getting distracted.

A question from Twelvetrees caused John to suddenly realize that the commission was not a formality as he had thought it would be.  Incensed, John asked if they were implying that his actions were the cause of the accident.  Oswald hurriedly tried to placate him and said no, not at all.  But by then John was on his feet and he said good-bye, turned, and left the room, despite not being properly dismissed.

Unfortunately, John was not paying attention to where he was and so he found himself out in the street in the pouring rain.  After ten minutes walking, he still didn’t know where he was but now thoroughly soaked, he opened the nearest door and went inside, straight to the hearth where he began to get feel warm again.  Accosted by a young man, John introduced himself and the young man was both surprised and pleased to see him, and introduced himself as Herbert Gormley.  Offered tea, John gratefully accepted and asked where he was.  Gormley told him it was the Royal Laboratory and rushed off to find someone who wanted to meet John.  That person was Captain Reginald Jones, who thought John was there at his invitation.  But John had left the mansion where he was being questioned before ever receiving it.

Joens and Gormley wanted to show John something and they took him through a warren of rooms and corridors, through the Royal Brass Foundry, which John observed with interest, until they finally reached an open area filled with pieces of ruined guns and a shelter under which lay tables covered with more pieces of debris.  

Hearing another explosion, John asked why they were testing in the rain and was asked, in turn, if he ever fought in rain, at which point John realized it would indeed be useful to have ordnance that was known to work properly in wet conditions.  And that was when John made the connection to all the questions about Edgar: His half brother owned a gunpowder factory in Sussex.  John started thinking — did the Army think that Edgar’s product was defective and if so, was it on purpose or what?

But Jones had stopped in front of table and asked if John recognized what was on it.  With sorrow, he guessed that it was the remains of Tom Pilchard and that he was brought there so they could find out if seeing the actual pieces jolted a show of guilt.  John was furious all over again but didn’t let anything show on his face.  He saw a chunk from a decoration — half of a piece of a leopard.  John took a piece of bronze from his pocket; it was the other half of the leopard.  Jones and Gormley were very interested in it and asked where he’d gotten it.  John replied: from his chest — the surgeon removed it and gave it to him as a souvenir.  There was still a piece missing but that was still in John’s body.  John thought back to the conversation he’d heard between the two surgeons who’d operated on him.  The German doctor, not realizing that John understood him, had decided to leave the shrapnel inside and John was overwhelmed with gladness that they weren’t going to hurt him anymore.

John was brought back to the present by Gormley asking if he’d heard anything when the gun exploded.  John asked for clarification and then said he’d heard a bang and a clang.  Then John noticed some other pieces of metal and asked what they were, because he was tired of answering all the questions Jones and Gormley were asking him.  But surprisingly, the two men looked at each other before answering that it was nothing.  John, however, didn’t believe them.

And, finally, he’d had enough.  Retrieving the leopard piece that was his souvenir, he told Gormley and Jones he had business elsewhere.  Jones said he could not take the leopard because it was property of His Majesty’s government.  John retorted that when His Majesty decided to ask him for it, he’d be happy to return it but in the meantime, he’d keep it safe.

Preparing himself for the weather, John then went outside.  He wasn’t followed.

Links to info about the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich:
* Map of Royal Arsenal (note Royal Brass Foundry in lower left; I couldn't find Bell Street when searching)
* Royal Arsenal Timeline
* The Royal Arsenal in the 18th Century, by Wikipedia
* General info about Woolwich nowadays, by Hidden London

1) Does John have reason to worry?
2) Why do you think the gun was called Tom Pilchard?  Here are 2 links that may help you think of an answer: Tom Pilchard and pilchards
3) Why do you think Jones and Gormley wanted to see John?
4) What do you make of Edgar?
5) Thoughts about this story so far?
6) Has anyone visited the Royal Arsenal and if yes, is it worth going there?

Edited to fix typos.
Edited to include the correct name of the publisher.
Last edited by LeslieEmrys on 3:39 AM - Jun 25, 2018, edited 2 times in total.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
'I noticed you capped all my best quotations,' said Lymond absently. ~ The Ringed Castle

Joined: 11:53 PM - Jan 31, 2017

5:51 PM - Jun 12, 2018 #2

Thanks for the summary, Leslie.  It's a complicated story and you did a 'bang up' job.  Sorry, couldn't help it.
John certainly feels he has something to worry about.  He is doubting himself because his memory of the battle is vague.  His father's advice of playing devil's advocate doesn't alleviate his concerns but it does set him on a course to find the truth.  Whatever doubts he does have, he keeps to himself so as not to give the commission the upper hand.  I love his snarky attitude toward Twelvetrees:  "Yes, sir, no sir, three bags full sir."  He might be worried but he hasn't lost his dry sense of humor.

Tom Pilchard, according to Wikipedia,  was a British army officer who was removed from command for disobeying his superior officer.  He refused to push on an attack without pausing for preparations, believing it would result in failure and heavy casualties.  The cannon also caused casualties of it's own soldiers when it blew up, and it is questionable if the cannon was properly prepared.  There is concern that the powder was a dud and should have been removed before reloading.  In the end, the cannon ended up destroyed, just like Pilchard's career.

 We are given the impression that Jones and Gormley want to see John for the same reason the commission wants to interrogate him.  They think he might bear some responsibility for the cannon exploding.  But their concern is more discerning for the reason of the explosion than for placing blame.  But once John sees that they are on the same war path as the inquisitors, he leaves with his dignity in tack.  I was cheering his exit line.

At this point in the story, we don't know much about Edgar.  Just that he isn't illiterate.  Again, John's dry sense of humor comes out at this point.

I love John's righteous indignation with the inquisition and at the lab.  He is feeling ill from his injuries, nervous about the commission and worrying about the sliver of metal in his body killing him any minute, yet he maintains his dignity and sense of humor.  You gotta love the man.

Lisa SF
Clan Fraser
Joined: 11:43 PM - Aug 02, 2011

6:29 PM - Jun 12, 2018 #3

Great summary -- thanks for the links!

John should be worried. It would appear that the commission is looking to assign blame and sees John as a likely target. The questions about Edgar are quite suspicious -- if I were in John's shoes, I'd definitely be concerned about this line of questioning.

It's really worrying to know that he still has a big sliver of metal in his chest. Yikes.
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Clan Fraser
Joined: 3:16 AM - Sep 17, 2009

9:30 PM - Jun 13, 2018 #4

Thank you for the wonderful summary, Leslie.  Very thorough.  

I chuckled at the snarky remark Grey made regarding Tom Pilchard.  I didn't like the questioning at all and I'm glad that John responded as he did, but I'm also concerned that he may now be in more trouble than before.  

The questions about his brother were unexpected.  I don't think we've heard too much about Edgar before this chapter.  

Lisa, it is worrisome that some shrapnel is still in his chest.  I'd be worried it would travel and do even more serious damage.  John should be home resting some.  To think that John himself could have been killed by the shards from TP.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings

Joined: 11:10 PM - Oct 07, 2017

8:19 PM - Jun 17, 2018 #5

LeslieE, thank you for the detailed summary and the questions.
Yes, John definitely has reason to worry.  The beginning scene of the inquisition brought to my mind the an early scene in The BOTB where John sat in attendance at a very dull meeting.  The unpleasant presence of Adams, in retrospect, proved to be forewarning that he was a dangerous character.  In the inquisition scene we have 3 potentially dangerous characters.  I cannot recall the details that ensue or if one or all of them are dangerous but we all know John must be on guard.

Jones and Gormley are investigators who are trying their best to put together all the pieces of the canon and all the pieces of the story of the explosion in a scientific manner. That is the impression I had the first time I read the book and that continues to be my impression now.  The investigators want to see John to get an account of his perceptions and memory of details.  John has a reason to be on edge but, I don't think these two characters are out to get him.

The story thus far has divulged a minimal amount of detail but the atmosphere of concern on at least two levels has been laid out.  We continue to be concerned about John's physical and emotional health.  John, himself, states that he has not yet cried over the events of the day of battle or the events that had occurred in the weeks before. His emotions are still raw and he is demonstrating signs of what we today call PTSD (don't know what it was referred to back then)., and we know he continues to carry a dangerous piece of metal in his chest.  We are also concerned about the apparent inclination of the committee to want lay the blame on John or some member of his family.  So, the plot is not fully developed but we are being slowly drawn in.

Clan Fraser
Joined: 10:09 PM - Jul 19, 2010

3:42 AM - Jun 18, 2018 #6

Great summary and comments all.  Catching up after being away for a week so I listened to this section earlier.

I agree that John has plenty to worry about now that he's been asked such odd questions by both the commission and the investigators.  I agree with Vita21 about them just trying to figure things out and not to be out to get John as some of the commission members seem to be.  And, having been asked so many questions about Edgar seemed to come out of the blue and that should definitely be worrisome.

Was anyone else surprised that the investigators had so many pieces of the cannon including small ones?  People had to collect them all and ship them from Germany to England for them to try to put together and I have to say that that seemed unlikely to me at that time.  And, how many of the little pieces could they have collected if the battlefield was muddy and messy?  Do you think it's likely that they would have gotten so much of the exploded cannon to study back in England?  Or is DG stretching reality a bit here?

It's never good when a Twelvetrees appears in a Lord John story.  Always makes me nervous. . .

Joined: 11:53 PM - Jan 31, 2017

12:57 PM - Jun 18, 2018 #7

Good question, ABL, about collecting all the small fragments of the cannon.  But the explosion happened months ago and an army, with enough determination, can usually accomplish the improbable.  Even an army in the 17 century.  So I would imagine, with so many defective cannons in their arsenal, that the army would have a lot of determination to get to the bottom of the problem.

Joined: 8:02 PM - Sep 30, 2016

8:39 PM - Jun 21, 2018 #8

LeslieEmrys, thank you for the great summary and the links!

I really felt like I was deep inside John's head in this chapter -- from his reactions to the artillery going off all around him, to his fury at the questioning, to his reaction to the warm fire and proffer. DG did a great job of explaining his physical and mental state.  I found myself picturing the missing sliver of artillery that was still inside him -- two inches long and sharp!!! Ouch!

Love how he is STILL thinking about Red Jamie. When will it end, he wonders. Not soon, as we all know.

1) Does John have reason to worry?
Not sure but we are certainly being set up to worry FOR him!

2) Why do you think the gun was called Tom Pilchard? 
Thank you for the links. The gun's name certainly seems ironic. Are cannon usually named? There was another instance too, maybe in one of the Outlander books (TFC?). Is it like naming a car or a boat? 

3) Why do you think Jones and Gormley wanted to see John?
I think they wanted to see if he could tell anything from looking at the broken pieces - but I don't think they were looking for him to give something away by his reaction, the way a murderer might react to a crime scene.  Right now I'm very curious about the piece of artillery that was not explained by Jones and Gormley.

4) What do you make of Edgar?
Not sure. We know John has 2 half brothers, but is this the first detail we've gotten on them? I am surprised they aren't closer, considering how important family is to John -- but with Hal almost 10 years older, the half-brothers must be even further separated from John by age. 

5) Thoughts about this story so far?
It's drawing me in, mainly because I am so deep inside John's head.


Lady Jayne
Clan Fraser
Joined: 7:41 PM - Oct 04, 2009

10:27 PM - Jun 25, 2018 #9

LeslieEmrys, thank you for the great summary and starting off our next Lord John group read.

I read Haunted Soldier years ago and have forgotten most of the details of the plot so it's nice to be re-kilting it with everyone here. Lord John handles himself well in both interrogations. Like Audiobooklover, I questioned some of the details, such as locating so many parts of the exploded canon and then having John enter the home/office of Gormley and Jones. I suppose the men were located in close proximity to the initial interrogation hall, but it seems too coincidental.

I also enjoy reading John's thoughts and his dry humor. After everything he has gone through, he still has his sense of humor, even if it goes unappreciated here! 😂

I'm looking forward to meeting the DeVane brothers and seeing how the investigation of the mysterious explosion develops.

Clan Fraser
Clan Fraser
Joined: 7:06 AM - May 26, 2012

5:18 AM - Jul 07, 2018 #10

Thanks for the summary, LeslieEmrys, especially as you had to write it out twice.

I felt sorry for poor John doing his best to be factual, while the people asking the questions have obviously got another motive. I loved the way he took back "his" piece of shrapnel!
I had not thought of the plausibility of the army retrieving all the pieces of cannon, but I suppose if there is to be an inquiry, they will need some evidence.

It was a nice detail to show the army practising shooting armaments in the rain; we all know that John is often out in the rain, whether fighting or not.