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Dutifully Jack lifted his glass. "To peace," he echoed, along with the rest of the officers dining at Captain Tizley's table. A dozen men feasted and drank together in the narrow, low-ceilinged room, but Jack alone wore army red amid a sea of naval blue. The captain's cook had outdone himself in honor of the evening's celebration. The last survivor of the ship's pigs had been sacrificed and devoured as a succulent roast, and now a spotted dog and a jam roly-poly graced the table in a double measure of pudding.
How many of us truly want peace? Jack hid a sigh as he downed what he believed was his seventh glass of wine. He couldn't say he did. He had begun this journey to England hoping not for peace or even a lengthy respite at home, but to argue for a better strategy to take back to Canada with him. He thought he knew how to regain control of the Great Lakes, and he believed he could make arguments for the utility of an Indian buffer state that would sway even the most hard-hearted and pragmatic politicians into doing right by their native allies for a change.
But today they had met a westward-bound ship carrying word of a treaty with the Americans, and all his scheming was at an end. Peace at last. Peace with America, as they had made peace with France last year when Bonaparte finally gave up and abdicated. Peace! Jack wasn't ready for it. He had been too long convalescing from the wounds he'd received at Queenston Heights. He needed another chance to prove his courage and talent, that he actually deserved the knighthood and promotion to major-general he'd been awarded while he lay in hospital.
"What will you do with this peace, Sir John?" Captain Tizley raised his brows in inquiry.
Jack smiled. "I must see what Horse Guards wants of me. Perhaps they shall send me back to Canada." He hoped so. He'd lived most of his adult life there, and when he thought of home, he pictured its woods and wildernesses, not the Northumberland village of his childhood. Whatever the terms of this peace with the Americans, Canada would still need to be garrisoned, and who better for the command than a man who knew and loved the place as he did?
"Have you no desire whatsoever to return to England and a settled life, then?" the captain asked.
Jack certainly didn't want to go back to Selyhaugh. Everything he had ever loved about his native village had died first with his best friend and then his mother. All he had left was a wife he hadn't wanted even when he spoke his vows. "I've never had a settled life," he said. "Have you, Captain?"
"No, sir. But if I should ever make admiral, I might begin to desire one. A country estate, a place in society, a family of my own."
It sounded seductive in the abstract, Jack admitted. Despite his long years away, he still felt the weight of his lineage. His mother would have wanted grandchildren to live on the family land. His uncle would have raged to think that after all his efforts to get Jack established in the army and raised to high rank and dignity, his wayward nephew might willfully fail to father a son to carry on the warlike Armstrong traditions. But Jack had been avoiding Elizabeth for too many years to feel sanguine about the prospect.