" A Gray - aye a right Gray! Fine I see it all. Do you take me for a fool, man? Your sovereign lord ! Andrew Gray wants his sheriffdom back and thinks to barter these letters for it! Seeks to play the pedlar wi' me, his king! Is that no' the truth o' it? "
David swallowed again. " Not, not that, sire. My lord but seeks to know your royal will in the matter "
" He ken's fine my royal will maun be to hae those letters. But he doesna bring them, nor send them. Only sends his brother's byblow to make a trade! His sheriff's office for thae letters. "
Andrew Gray may be son of the notorious Master of Gray, handsomest man in Europe and Machiavelli of Scottish politics, but a generation on he has acquired caution to temper the family talent for opportunism and scheming. Which is why he has commissioned his bastard nephew David Gray to be his envoy south of the border to James VI of Scotland in his new English domain.
But first David has to find Queen Mary's famously incriminating letters, said to be hidden in a casket at Fast Castle , that extraordinary wreckers' nest of a stronghold halfway down a cliff on the Berwickshire coast. In this quest David is aided by Barbara Home of nearby Billsdean, and in all the exasperating and time-consuming travels which follow, pausing at Billsdean is the one cheering prospect to lighten his unlooked for amateur diplomacy.
Nigel Tranter is at his storytelling best and the wily world of James VI of Scotland, First of England, the only monarch in Europe to have more wit than to go to war.