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The Major's Minion

"She thinks that he's a murderer; he thinks that she's a man."

Katherine must prove her brother innocent of murder. Determined to clear his name and, indeed, save his life, she sets out in male disguise to find the real criminal. The most likely suspect is Major Lancaster, publicly a hero of the Peninsular War, but privately a man who has learned the hard way that war is far from glorious.

After she saves his life he offers her a place in his household. They rapidly get to know and like each other; he finds in this intelligent and sympathetic youth (as he believes) a person to whom he can unburden his soul, while she finds in him something very close to her ideal man. But as her love grows, so does her belief in his guilt, and she faces the agonizing choice of sending either him or her brother to the gallows.

This is a rip-roaring historical romantic thriller, with a heroine brave enough to whip out her swordstick, and a hero strong enough to admit his weakness.

This material is copyright, Linden Salter 2000, and may not be reproduced without the permission of the author

Chapter 1

On the evening that he was to be murdered, George Lancaster wandered into the wrong room.
The Rose and Crown was an old inn in this year of 1813, having been built in the Wars of the Roses when the original landlord was kept busy repainting the rose every time the crown changed hands. It had been improved and added to many times over the centuries, and the stairs and hallways were far from regular, which was why George Lancaster, who disdained directions, entered the room immediately above his own.
Most men, when faced with a young woman in her petticoat repairing a rip in her dress, would have muttered an embarrassed apology and retreated hastily. Not this man. The woman wasn't entirely to his taste, being much too tall, much too strongly featured, and much too slim. But she was young, barely clad, and alone: that was enough for him.
Her icy request for him to leave he ignored: he noticed only how she blushed at his invasion. 'Oh, come now, my charming girl,' he said, walking steadily towards her, smiling. 'Such a happy chance must be put to advantage.'
She did not scream for help: good. She stood up: good. But then to his surprise she took a stance more appropriate to a fencer than a seamstress, and brandished her three-inch needle like a foil. 'Get away from me,' she hissed, still holding her dress in her other hand.
His interest increased: this was something new. 'I don't think that will protect you, my dear,' he said, still approaching, his arms ready to capture her in an embrace.
Suddenly she whipped her dress into his face, blinding him for a moment, and he felt a stab in the back of his hand as she ripped the needle through his flesh. It wasn't enough to confuse him: he was under attack, and his instincts took over. His hand reached down to cover his groin, and the kick she landed there was only enough to hurt, not disable him.
'Bitch!' he cried, sucking the blood from his hand. It was no longer lust that drove him: it was revenge. He grabbed her in his arms, forcing his mouth on hers. But she took him unawares again as she bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, and he flinched away from her, allowing her to call out.
'Help!' she screamed. 'Harry! Help!'
His mouth was back on hers, stopping her voice; his hand was on her breast, squeezing it hard; his other arm was round her, pulling her so close to him she couldn't struggle. Though she kicked him again, her feet were bare and had little effect on him. He threw her to the floor and landed heavily on her, winding her. He forced his knee between her legs, ignoring her hands that tried to gouge his eyes out.
Then he felt a hand at the back of his collar, and he was pulled away from the woman. Quickly he rolled over and stood up, prepared to brazen it out; but he was given no chance as a fist landed squarely on his chin and sent him reeling.
The man who attacked him was no taller than the woman: perhaps six inches shorter than he. But both of them together he could not face, for the woman was getting up with fury in her face and reaching for a heavy brass candlestick, prepared to crash it on his skull. And now there were other faces appearing in the doorway, and both men were held to stop them fighting.
'Gentlemen, gentlemen!' It was the landlord. 'I must protest! Stop at once.'
'Get this pig away before I kill him,' panted the shorter man. The woman went over to her rescuer: they stood together accusingly.
George Lancaster tried to recover his dignity now he had an audience. 'How dare you!' he breathed heavily. 'D'you not know who I am?'
'You're the man who assaulted my sister!' snarled the other man. 'That's all I need to know.'
'Assault your sister? She loved every minute. Ask her how long it was before she cried for help!'
The brother would have attacked him again if he had not been restrained.
Now the landlord intervened. 'Mr Lancaster,' he said. 'Let me show you to your own room.' George Lancaster felt the grip of a sturdy inn-servant edge him towards the door; he did not resist, recognizing that this was the safest way out.
The landlord ushered him down the stairs into his own room. He was not to leave it alive.

Katherine Faulkner dipped her handkerchief into the water jug and wiped her face, trying to wash away the memory of a brutal mouth on hers. 'I'm glad you arrived, Harry. I was beginning to worry that I couldn't get rid of him.'
'Thank God I did, Kitty,' said her brother. He put his arm round her in comfort, and she rested her head briefly on his shoulder, glad not to pretend to be brave.
Neither of them liked to fuss. The young man's fiery red hair was at variance with his peaceable nature: he was roused to anger only by the most extreme circumstances - such as a man trying to rape his sister. She was naturally less placid, but she scorned exhibitions of sensibility and tried to appear as calm as her brother. Not that either of them needed to display much emotion when they were together: they were twins, and each knew what the other was thinking and feeling almost as readily as they knew their own minds.
They had always shared their joys and comforted each other in their griefs, from the time their mother had died when they were still small children. Their father had never remarried: though he was a handsome man, well-respected as the squire of Eastham, he'd never loved another woman. He'd left both his children to grow up pretty much as they wished to: and they wished to be together.
Katherine picked up her dress and examined it. 'Oh dear. It's even more torn than it was before,' she said, glad to talk of something mundane.
'Throw it away, then. Aunt Helen will fit you out with new clothes when we reach London.'
'I should,' she said, surveying the rip in a dress that had never been lovely. 'But I'm attached to it. I never realized that a dress could be a weapon of defence. Or a three-inch needle, come to that.'
'Is that how you were fighting him off?' Harry asked with a small laugh of disbelief. 'What a good thing you insisted on joining in my fencing lessons!'
'You remember how everyone was shocked and kept telling me to learn how to play the piano instead? I was in the right, it seems.' She laid the dress aside, recognizing that it was ruined past repair, and donned another from her portmanteau.
She was decently clad when the landlord returned, full of apologies, promising them the finest dinner that the Rose and Crown could provide. 'Do you wish to make charges, Mr Faulkner, Miss Faulkner?' he asked, his hope that they wouldn't plain on his face.
'Yes,' said Katherine.
'No,' said Harry.
'I'll leave you alone to discuss the matter,' said the landlord. 'But I must tell you that Mr Lancaster is a rich and powerful man, and well-connected. He made very sure to inform me that he's a close friend of the Prince Regent.' He apologized once again as he left.
'We can't let a man like that go free!' protested Katherine. 'God knows how many other women he's attacked: women who couldn't fight so well as I, or had brothers as convenient as you.'
'Kitty, we can't,' said Harry quietly. 'Just think for a moment. You know what he'd say in court. He'll tell the world that you encouraged him. You should have called for help earlier.'
'I should,' she acknowledged. 'But I thought I could manage alone.'
'You always do think that,' he said. 'But sometimes you can't.'
'I know. I shan't make that mistake again.' She paced about the room, as if she could walk away her anger. 'But what are we going to do? I refuse to let him get away with it!'
'I'll challenge him,' Harry sighed with reluctance. 'That's the only thing to do.'
'No!' she cried, horrified. 'Why should you risk your life because he assaulted me?'
'Because if I don't, he'll brand you a wanton and me a coward. You heard what the landlord said - he's got powerful friends. Our reputations would be ruined.'
'Oh, bother our reputations! What do they matter?'
'Do you want to go through life with everyone thinking that you encouraged a man like that?'
'No, but -'
'And I certainly don't want to have everyone think that I dared not challenge a man who tried to rape my sister.'
'Oh, but not now!' she cried. 'Wait!'
'What for?'
She searched for an excuse. 'Wait until we get to London. You can't call him out now: you don't have any seconds.'
He gave a laugh. 'You could dress up as a man and act for me: he'd never notice.'
'That's not funny, Harry,' she reproved. 'Oh, at least - at least make him challenge you! That way you have choice of weapons. You're much better with a sword than a pistol.'
'Oh, I think I'd manage to hit him with a pistol,' he said with an air of ease that did not deceive her. 'He's a much bigger target than I am.'
Just then their dinner arrived. Katherine welcomed it, knowing that it would give her more time to try to dissuade her brother. But she was wasting her breath, and she knew it.
He had grown up so fast in the past few months since their father died. Until then she had always been the leader of the pair; but when he became the squire of Eastham at twenty-one, the responsibilities made him suddenly much older. No longer could she lead him, and she knew that she should not even try.
That was the reason for this journey. She loved Harry, so she must leave him. When the invitation came from her fashionable aunt, Lady Fenton, to spend a Season in London, she accepted it gladly. Though it hadn't been stated, the aim was clear: to find her a husband.
Though Harry had insisted that she always had a place at Eastham, she knew that things must change. One day soon he would take a wife, and she didn't think she could bear giving way to another woman, a stranger, and fading into the small dignity of a maiden aunt.
Harry had been reluctant at first, until he had extracted a promise from her: she would not marry a man she did not love. She was perfectly willing to give it. She was a practical young woman, not given to high-flown romantic notions, but their parents' happy, loving marriage would not let her settle for anything less.
She didn't have to marry: her fortune of seven thousand pounds was enough to live on - infinitely preferable to living with a bad husband. But living with a good husband? That had its attractions. She'd felt a small pang when she and Harry set out from Eastham, but far greater was her anticipation of a season of pleasure. Though she had grown up a self-confessed tomboy, she was woman enough to enjoy the thought of fine dresses and fashionable routs. She would enjoy a few months of gaudy dissipation, even if she didn't find someone to catch her fancy.
There had never been anyone in Eastham - not since she was fourteen and the brawny village blacksmith had married a farmer's daughter. She knew she wasn't conventionally beautiful, but she also knew that her aunt's advice on dress and deportment would make her far from repulsive. She would not do for a man who wanted to marry a beautiful idiot, but then such a man would not do for her either. Surely there must be somebody who looked for companionship in a wife rather than mindless adoration and submission, and in London she might meet him.
But not if she was already marked as someone who would encourage the attentions of such a vile man as Mr Lancaster.
Dinner was over. Harry put down his glass and stood up. 'No sense in wasting any more time,' he said heavily.
'Harry, I - ' She didn't finish: she put her arms round him, then let him go.
'I shan't be long,' he said, and then he left.
Alone, she leaned her elbows on the table, resting her head in her hands, her repugnance at the memory of Lancaster's assault vying in her mind with the sick fear she felt for Harry. What would she do if he were killed? It would be like losing half of herself. But perhaps that revolting man wouldn't accept a challenge: he might be brave enough only to attack a lone woman. He didn't seem to be any too skilled in fighting: she could have beaten him off if he'd not been much bigger and heavier than she.
So much for the tall, dark, handsome man she'd dreamed of meeting, who would cherish her and initiate her tenderly into the joys of love. Tall and dark, yes: perhaps she could even have thought him handsome in other circumstances. His was the first mouth that had kissed hers, his were the first hands that had felt her body. She wondered if she would ever obliterate the memory enough to welcome another man's kiss and embrace.
Perhaps that's why I didn't manage to stop Harry, she thought: I wasn't as opposed to his wish as I should have been. I want Lancaster dead.
Suddenly there was a sound from beneath her feet: it seemed alarmingly like a pistol shot.
The walls and doors of the old inn were very thick, and she could hear no more. Should she wait here? No: perhaps Harry needed her. She ran out of the room, down the stairs to the floor below. She could see that she was not the first to be attracted by the noise: a small crowd of inn-servants were gathered round an open doorway, and the landlord was running to join them from the other direction.
She too ran to the doorway: it had been broken open. Like the others, she looked inside the room. And there was Harry, a pistol in one hand, the other hand bloody from the gaping wound in the chest of the man who had once been George Lancaster.
'You shouldn't have done it,' she heard the landlord say. 'Oh, Mr Faulkner, you shouldn't have done it.'

Katherine's first instinct was to run after Harry protectively as he was frog-marched away by two big inn-servants, but she quelled it. She had other things to do.
She did not shake away the arm of the landlady who led her back to her room, though she refused the proffered smelling salts: she was not about to faint.
'Now you just sit down, Miss Faulkner,' the landlady was saying. 'You've had a nasty shock. Two nasty shocks, you poor thing. And in my inn, too. I can't tell you how sorry I am.'
'Where will they take Harry?'
'The lock-up. Constable Webb's there. He's a fair man: he won't let any harm come to your brother.' Until they hang him for murder, she did not say. 'I must say, I can't blame your brother too much for killing that dreadful man.'
'He didn't!' cried Katherine, hoping desperately that she was right. 'He's innocent!'
'Well, if that's right, then you've no need to worry, have you?' said the landlady with jovial insincerity. 'He'll get a fair trial.'
Katherine urgently needed time to be alone to think, so she got rid of the landlady, saying that she needed to lie down to recover from the shock. It was no lie: she was extremely shocked by the horrific events of the evening. But now she had to compose herself: she had a desperate task ahead of her.
Could Harry have killed George Lancaster in cold blood? That wasn't the sort of thing he would do: but he had been very angry. She dismissed her doubts: her preparations would have been just the same whatever her brother had done.
It didn't take long to get ready. Leaving the money for the night's accommodation on the mantelshelf to be found the next morning, she made her way to the local lock-up.
The lamps inside allowed her to see in through the window: there was a man there, presumably Constable Webb. She could see the bars of a cell, but it was too dark for her to make out whether Harry was inside. She quite deliberately allowed the horrors of the evening to flood through her so that tears came to her eyes. This was the time to look distraught, horrified, and, above all, harmless.
She burst into the lock-up, wailing in misery that was not entirely assumed. 'Oh, Harry!' she cried. Her brother's face appeared at the bars of the cell and she rushed up to him.
''Ere, miss,' said the constable: he was a little shorter than she was, but well-built, and his face was shrewd. 'No getting close to the prisoner, I'm afraid. That's agin' regulations.'
'But it's my brother!' she wailed.
The constable's voice softened. 'All right, miss, you can talk to him. But not too close. It's my job to make sure you ain't passing anything to him, you understand.'
'Oh, thank you, thank you,' she sobbed. 'I'm sorry to trouble you with my female weakness.'
'That's all right, young lady,' said the constable kindly. 'I'm used to the wailing of women in my job.'
'It's all right, Kitty,' Harry said, obviously alarmed at her unusual display of the vapours. 'I'm innocent. They won't hang an innocent man.' She wished he looked more confident of that statement.
'You are innocent, Harry?' she asked - though he was hardly likely to admit otherwise when the constable was so obviously listening to their every word.
'I'm innocent, Kitty. Word of a Faulkner.' The old childhood promise, never to be broken no matter how great the temptation.
That was it. All doubt fled from her mind. 'But what happened, then?'
Aware that the constable was listening, he told her. He had gone to the room belonging to George Lancaster prepared simply to enter, slap the man's face, and await his challenge. He had needed a few seconds to summon up his resolution, so he stood outside the door. 'And then I heard voices, Kitty,' he said. 'It seemed - well, it was dashed awkward, bursting in on him when there was someone with him.'
She reflected dryly on the etiquette that would allow him to challenge a man to a duel to the death but not to interrupt a private conversation.
'Listen, Kitty,' Harry continued urgently. 'This is important. I heard Lancaster's voice quite distinctly. "Killing Lord Bowland - it's a hanging matter," that's what he said!'
'A hanging matter? Then -'
Harry didn't let her finish. 'Then the other man said something, and Lancaster shouted again: "It's not too late for me to confess." Then I heard the other man say something - the only words I could hear from him: "On the contrary, George. It is much too late for you to do anything ever again." Then I heard Lancaster cry out: "No! Don't!" The next thing I heard was a pistol shot. I grabbed at the door handle and tried to turn it, but it was locked, so I kicked it open. Lancaster was on the floor, blood everywhere, and there was a pistol beside him.'
'What about the other man? Did you see him?'
'Yes. He was climbing out of the window - he must have heard me trying to break the door down. I chased after him, but I wasn't fast enough. Then I heard a groan from Lancaster, and I had to turn back to him to see if I could help him, but there wasn't - he died without saying anything. Then I looked up, and there was everyone crowded round the doorway, and I realized what it must look like. I didn't kill him, Kitty; but God knows how I can prove it.'
She turned to Constable Webb as if he represented the opinion of the world. 'You see? He's innocent. Don't you believe him?'
'Don't make no difference whether I believe him or not, miss. My job's to look after him until the magistrate sees him. But I'll tell you this. Whether he did it or not, there's few that'll blame him for it, seeing as what that Mr Lancaster tried to do to you.'
'Will they - if he's found guilty - will they - I mean, you said people wouldn't blame him - will he be -'
'Will they hang him, you mean?'
She nodded.
'Oh, yes, they'll hang him all right, but there'll be a lot of people sorry to see him go.'
Her sobs, which had vanished while she was listening to Harry, burst out again with renewed force. 'Oh my brother!' she wailed with enough vigour to rattle the walls. 'My poor Harry!'
The constable came close to her to comfort her. 'There, now, miss, there, there,' he was saying, patting her on her shoulder.
'I'm sorry,' she managed to say, her hysterical cries abating. 'I have a handkerchief somewhere.' She fumbled in her reticule. 'Could you - would you get me a drink, please?'
The constable turned away from her towards a small barrel of beer that stood on his table. Now was her chance. She took a deep breath as she produced from her reticule, not a handkerchief, but a stocking filled with wet sand. She took the two paces necessary to reach the constable, raised her arm, and brought the stocking heavily down on the back of his head. He dropped instantly.
'Please, God, let me not have killed him,' she prayed as she knelt down beside him. To her relief he groaned as she fumbled inside his jacket and found the keys. Hastily she unlocked the door to Harry's cell, and her brother almost fell into her arms. There was time only for a quick murmur of thanks, and then they hurriedly turned to the constable, unconscious on the floor.
'Quick, tie him up,' she said ruthlessly.
'That seems hard on the poor man, Kitty.'
'The rope goes round his wrists or your neck.'
He argued no more, but grabbed a cord from the wall and proceeded to tie up Webb's wrists. There was another low moan and the man's eyes opened.
'Oh, miss,' he groaned. 'That was taking mean advantage of a man's good nature.'
Katherine helped Harry to sit him up against the wall. 'I'm frightfully sorry, Constable,' she said. 'But it's my brother's life, you see. That's more important to me than anything.'
Then brother and sister turned and fled into the night.

Chapter 2

'Rich men may find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven, but they have impressive funerals.' Major Richard Lancaster did not hide his cynical disgust. 'George lived abominably, and he died because he tried to rape someone. Now we bury him with full pomp and ceremony.'
'Pomp and ceremony have their uses, Richard,' said his cousin, the Earl of Bowland. 'In the eyes of the world, the Prince Regent's presence at the funeral will lessen the dishonour that your brother brought on our family.'
The major tried to recall just one occasion when George had shown any concern for his own or the family's honour, or just one moment in which he and George had felt any affection towards each other. There was nothing. Instead, he remembered the time - God, it was twenty years ago! - when he'd come upon his elder brother cutting the tails off a litter of kittens for sport. He had protested, and George had jeered at him for being unmanly.
The insult had stuck. From that moment he was determined to show that George was wrong. He had to prove - to himself as much as anyone else - that manliness did not mean callousness. In his youth he believed that all he needed was chivalry. So he had fought any school bully bigger and older than himself, and found himself revered by the smaller boys as their protector. When he was grown, and there were no bullies left around him who were stronger than he was, he had taken on the strongest of them all, Napoleon, and joined the army.
It was then he learned that chivalry was a fraud. Yes, he had proved himself a man; the praise he had received for courage and cool-headedness began to convince even himself. After all, if Wellington had clapped him on the shoulder and called him a hero, who was he to disagree with his commanding officer? But he had become callous. He had seen friends shot down, and he had learned to turn away from them and rally the troops to fight on. Only during the nights as he tossed in his sleep could he hear the screams of the dying, feel the agony of the besieged cities, and see the broken human bodies.
That was over. He was out of the army now. He had returned to civilian life to discover that, while he was gaining a military reputation, his brother was gaining one for fashionable debauchery. In comfort, and in safety - as he'd thought. George had wealth and connections, and had escaped punishment for his vices and crimes - until now. George had had a quick, clean death: far, far better than he deserved.
Now here they were, burying him. The procession was long, the preacher was fashionable, and the coffin a triumph of expensive joinery. The hypocrisy of which he was part made the major's skin crawl, as if he were wearing a hair shirt instead of these impeccably tailored mourning clothes. He turned to his cousin. 'George's death was in keeping his life: a disgrace. Nothing can cover that up.'
'You put it too strongly, Richard,' Lord Bowland replied.
'Consider this, Edward. There's some poor young woman who has had the privilege of being assaulted by George, seen her brother arrested for killing him, and been forced to flee from the law. My brother's last act was typically ruinous.'
'Before you get sentimental about her, recall that her brother shot your brother down in cold blood. Not at all the thing. Should have called him out.'
'He's likely to go to the gallows for that breach of etiquette - if he's caught, which I sincerely hope he's not. I hope that the pair of them are in safety somewhere hundreds of miles away.'
'Indeed, I'd observed a certain lack of fervour in your quest for your brother's murderer.'
'What, have a man hanged for defending his sister's honour?'
'Yes, I gather that the young man's of good family; nephew of the delightful Lady Fenton, I believe.'
The major looked icily at his cousin. 'You mean that if he'd not been, you would have had him swallowing George's assault on his sister?'
'I don't mean that at all.' Bowland smiled. 'Come, Richard, let us not argue at the funeral: we have a coffin to carry. If it makes you happy, I'll wish the young man every success in staying hidden.'
'Perhaps that is best for him. But I'm far from happy about the sister; it's damned hard on her, to be forced into hiding because George tried to rape her. God help her, wherever she is.'

She was not hundreds of miles away, nor even hundreds of yards. Major Lancaster would have seen her if he'd looked at the loiterers outside the church instead of keeping his eyes straight ahead. But even if he had seen her, he wouldn't have known her for what she was.
A few days had turned Katherine Faulkner from the respectable daughter of a country squire on her way to her first Season into a fugitive in male disguise. She was far too tall a woman to escape notice, but in these old clothes of Harry's she could appear as a man of moderate height. After a fierce argument - brief, as they'd had no time to waste in their flight - Harry had agreed to go into hiding. Katherine alone would take on the task of proving his innocence. And the only way to do that was to find the man who really had shot George Lancaster.
Harry would recognize the man again, but he was not in a position to stroll the streets of London looking for him. Harry's bright red hair could easily be covered up with blacking, but the forces of the law would know that too and not be deceived by such a simple disguise.
But she had a good idea of the man she was looking for. A gentleman by his appearance, aged around thirty, and as tall as George Lancaster himself, Harry reckoned. He had grey eyes - Harry had seen them glinting in the lamplight as the man had stared at him for a second just before he'd climbed out of the window. He'd been wearing a ring: 'It looked like an heirloom, Kitty,' Harry had said. 'You know, one of those old-fashioned things. It was made of rubies, set in the form of a rose.' Presumably he wanted to kill someone called Lord Bowland: Katherine resolved to find this aristocrat as soon as she could. Finally, and most usefully, he had called his victim George. That meant a considerable degree of intimacy; anyone so intimate would almost certainly be at the funeral, because to miss it would cause comment.
Blessing her man's disguise, since women did not normally attend funerals, Katherine trusted that nobody would take any notice of her in her place among the idlers who were hanging around St George's in Hanover Square to watch the spectacle. Nobody knew her, and she knew none of those who arrived in the procession, except that she recognized the Prince Regent from his pictures.
Hastily she scanned the mourners entering the church. Too old, too short, she thought. She wasn't close enough to see the colour of their eyes, and they were all in black gloves so any ring was hidden, but surely there must be at least one tall gentleman of thirty among all these people? There were, as she realized when she looked at the pall-bearers. All six of them. Of course, she reflected: old men and small men couldn't carry the weight that had been George Lancaster.
She moved closer to study their faces and features, and to fix them into her mind. She didn't know who any of them were, but it shouldn't be hard to find out later. She could see the faces of only half of the pall-bearers, as the other three were obscured by the coffin as it rested on their shoulders. One by one she memorized the profiles of the men on her side of the aisle, making sure she could visualize each one before she studied the next.
There, that's three of them, she thought. I'll recognize them if I see them again. She sidled unobtrusively around the back of the church until she reached the other side and she could see the other pall-bearers. Again she studied them: the fourth man, the fifth.
Then the sixth.
To her it was as if everyone else in the church had suddenly faded away. There was no need for her to work at memorizing his features; they were stamped on her mind indelibly.
He was no taller than the rest, for they were all much of a height. No handsomer either, for they were all fine-looking men as befitted a fashionable funeral. He did nothing more than solemnly carry the coffin, one man among six, but everyone else - the Prince Regent, the preacher, the other pall-bearers - appeared as nothing more than shadows around him, as if he were the only living person among them.
What was it about him? Then she realized: it was the sheer manliness of the man. It made her feel how inadequate her clothes, her cropped hair, her assumed swagger and her deepened voice were to support her disguise. Whatever it is that he has, she thought, I wish he could give some of it to me.

"The Major's Minion" by Linden Salter
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