Granger, Treadway, and Gambier rode across the empty pasture, the Life Guards thundering along behind them. Once they had arrived at Windsor, Gambier had re-oriented his troopers so they were in the rear, as there was no need to fear an impending traffic jam.The heat had increased immeasurably during their ride, so much that Granger and Treadway had shed their jackets.Gambier had retained his, as had his men, and their discomfort was evident by the perspiration on their faces.Granger had felt pangs of guilt at being so informal, but it had been a long ride, and unlike their military compatriots, Granger and Treadway weren’t accustomed to long rides in stiflingly hot weather.
“That is the knoll where the duel is to take place, my lord,” Gambier said, gesturing to a hillock some way in the distance, atop where a group of men were gathered.At first, from that far, it was impossible to discern individuals; it was only possible to see groupings of people.There was a large group, one that appeared to be a bit rowdy, while there was another smaller group that was more refined.There was an even smaller group of three people standing between those two groups, and off to the side, there was a solitary figure, standing alone.As they got closer, Granger was able to recognize that Cavendish was the solitary figure.
The group of three people separated, and that seemed to be the sign that the event was progressing.Granger disregarded the others and spurred his horse into a full cantor, determined to arrive in time to forestall the actual duel.Treadway dutifully followed him.
“Make sure no one is able to escape,” Gambier shouted to his troop, even as he increased his speed to keep up with Granger and Treadway.Granger saw or heard none of this, so focused was he on the knoll in front of him.He watched as Cavendish and Barnett were called to the center, and how they bowed to each other, an act designed to civilize the entire affair.They walked back to pre-ordained spots and waited for the seconds to give them uncocked pistols.Both had just selected their pistols when Granger came upon them.It was as if the duelers and spectators had not noticed this galloping group of horsemen until they were upon them, a strangeness that just added to the overall oddity of this event.
“Hold there!” Granger ordered and maneuvered his horse in between both Cavendish and Barnett.Treadway joined him, while Gambier stayed back to supervise the deployment of his men.The spectators looked at them with surprise and interest.The man who must be Barnett, along with his second, were visibly annoyed, while Cavendish and Ward looked at him with glacial expressions, showing neither happiness nor annoyance at having this affair interrupted.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” demanded the man who must be Barnett’s second.He was a very handsome young man, with dark brown hair and flashing olive colored eyes.
“And who, sir, are you?” Granger demanded.
“I am Albert Bishop-Maidstone,” he decreed with pride.Granger forced back the sneer he longed to throw at this man whom he had heard of but had never met.He was Sir Tobias Maidstone’s nephew and heir, the young man who had added ‘Maidstone’ to his surname in order to acquire Sir Tobias’ estate.
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Granger said.“I am the Right Honorable Viscount Granger; Knight of the Bath, Captain of the His Majesty's Ship Valiant, and the Governor and Constable of Windsor.”It was this last honor that made his presence here vital, and made his interference in this affair credible.He was, in essence, in charge of Windsor castle and its environs, and while it had been honorary up to this point, for the first time, the power that it gave Granger was practically useful.
The smaller, more refined crowd Granger had seen were mostly friends of Cavendish, and by extension friends of Granger.He knew them well, to a man, and knew they would yield to his authority.The large crowd Granger had spied coming up this knoll, on the other hand, seemed to be composed largely of Barnett’s friends, supporters, or spectators, and while they were cowed by Granger’s words, Barnett and Maidstone were not.“While it is also our pleasure to meet Your Lordship, that does not explain your interruption of an otherwise legitimate affair of honor,” Barnett said.
“This duel is illegal, and you, Mr. Barnett, are under arrest,” Granger said.“Major Gambier, you and your men will take Mr. Barnett and Lord Frederick Cavendish into your custody.”As he said that, he made eye contact with Cavendish for the first time.Cavendish continued to stare at Granger with an expression that gave away no feelings, but just seemed blank.
“This duel is not illegal, my lord,” Maidstone argued.“The presence of General Grenville and the Honorable Tom Onslow should surely attest to that.”General Grenville was a denizen of the powerful Grenville clan, although Granger couldn’t remember if he was the uncle or a cousin of Lord Grenville, the Foreign Minister.He was also known to be the Duke of York’s man, and while all that was interesting, it was Grenville’s position as Ranger and Keeper of the House Park at Windsor Forest that Maidstone was referring to, and which he assumed would add legitimacy to his argument. General Grenville looked quite embarrassed by the entire affair, because his involvement would certainly not be popular with the King.Granger chose to treat him in a friendly way, just as their exchanges had been in the past.
“It is good to see you again, General,” Granger said politely.
“The pleasure is assuredly mine, my lord,” Grenville replied in a similar tone.
“It is also good to see you Mr. Onslow,” Granger said.“I trust you will convey my greetings to your father when next you see him.”Onslow was the son of Lord Onslow, and as he was part of the Prince of Wales’s inner circle, Granger knew him well.He was renowned for his skill at cricket, and for the positively crazy way he drove his phaeton around town.Granger could not decide who was the more erratic driver:Onslow or Lord Sefton.But as with Grenville, Maidstone was referring primarily to Onslow’s role as Out-Ranger of Windsor Forest when he had pointed out his presence.
“I will gladly do that, my lord,” Onslow said.Maidstone had anticipated that Onslow and Grenville would back his position, but they were being very polite, almost deferential to Granger.That must have appeared odd to Maidstone and Barnett, since both Onslow and Grenville were much older than Granger, in their 50s or 60s, and were well-connected at Court.That did nothing to change the fact that they were both subordinate to Granger in this venue.The Governor and Constable of Windsor outranked mere rangers.
“I suspect that if you quizzed General Grenville and Mr. Onslow, you would find that they are merely observing this event, not sanctioning it,” Granger said firmly, although his firmness was directed more to the gentlemen he referenced.
“And how can you be so sure of that, my lord?” Maidstone challenged.
“Because, in their positions as Ranger and Keeper of the House Park at Windsor Forest and Out-Ranger of Windsor Forest, they are in effect my subordinates,” Granger said.It was humorous to watch Grenville and Onslow cringe at this reminder of their status.“I would further suggest that when His Majesty learns of this affair, and when he learns it was conducted on his own royal demesne, he will be furious at all the parties involved, including you.General Grenville and Mr. Onslow are too wise and too polished to risk His Majesty’s wrath over this incident.”Grenville, Onslow, and many of the others looked visibly worried about that, but none looked as worried as Cavendish.That comment had shaken him from his daze.Granger focused on Grenville and Onslow.“I must thank you gentlemen for fulfilling your duties in my absence, but as I am here, I will resume my role as Constable.”
“Certainly, my lord,” General Grenville answered for both of them.
“Since when, my lord, is dueling illegal?” Barnett asked.
“Mr. Barnett, dueling is illegal here because I say it is illegal,” Granger asserted, even though it would have been possible to quote the statute, the edict banning duels in Windsor Park signed by King James I in 1614.“That is what it means to be the Constable of Windsor.You are welcome to appeal my verdict and interpretation of the law to His Majesty.”Granger turned to Gambier and raised his voice slightly, and let his anger show enough to give his words effect.“Is there some reason, Major, why you have not yet obeyed my orders to take Mr. Barnett and Lord Cavendish into custody?”
“I beg your pardon, my lord,” Gambier said, horrified at that breach of duty.Some quick orders to his troopers directed them to appropriate two of the carriages people had driven to the knoll, and to use them to escort Cavendish and Barnett to Windsor.
“His Majesty has made his feelings about dueling quite clear,” Granger said loudly to the group gathered there.There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the King loathed it.“There will be no more duels at Windsor, lest the next time we discover such a ritual we will apprehend and hold not only the participants, but the spectators as well.”Granger glared at the group, even as they began to leave the sight with almost indecent speed.His words would have an impact, and while he had not ended dueling, he had made it much more risky to engage in that act at Windsor, and probably effectively banned it from the Royal Castle and environs.Grenville and Onslow would certainly change their tune about it.
Barnett’s spectators left in the various modes of transportation they’d brought.The shabbiness of some of their conveyances betrayed their more plebian roots, and Granger realized that Barnett must have a reputation as a dueler, and these people must be his loyal fans.Granger found it intriguing that Barnett would have fans for killing people in duels in much the same way that he had fans for killing Oranians and Frenchmen.“We must go to Windsor,” Granger told Treadway.
“As Seconds, it is our job to go and support our principal, my lord,” Bishop-Maidstone asserted.
“I have ordered you to disperse, so you may join us and support your principal, but you will do so from inside a prison cell,” Granger said firmly.
“This is not justice, my lord!” he objected dramatically.
“Then I recommend that you get yourself elected to Parliament where you can work on reforming the system.In the meantime, you are subject to the laws of this jurisdiction,” Granger said, and was annoyed with himself for sounding like a barrister.
“It was good to see you, albeit briefly, my lord,” John Ward said.He was a handsome man, one who had very pointy, almost feminine features, but was in fact a very masculine specimen.
“It was good to see you was well,” Granger replied in a friendly way.“Perhaps our paths will cross at Court or at Carlton House.”
“Carlton House is more likely, my lord,” Ward said with a grin.He mounted his horse and rode off, leaving Treadway and Granger to ride to Windsor alone.
“I will want you to find out if Mr. Barnett is willing to agree that, despite the interrupted nature of this duel, honor has been satisfied,” Granger told Treadway.
“I doubt that he will agree to that, my lord,” Treadway predicted.
“Then we will have to find a way to rid ourselves of him,” Granger said.“It is a shame Rattlesnake has already sailed for the Indies.”
“The Psyche is to sail on the morning tide for Calcutta, my lord,” Treadway suggested.Psyche was a 32-gun frigate, an older ship built during the last war. “I have a friend who commands her marines.”
“And who is commanding the Psyche?” Granger asked.
“Captain Preston, my lord,” he replied.“I believe you served with him at one time.”
“He was the first lieutenant of Barracuda when I first joined the Navy,” Granger ruminated.He’d had some unpleasant dealings with Preston, who had been foolish enough to let his jealousy over Granger’s success become visible, but the two of them had largely resolved those issues.Granger’s friends had been influential in getting Preston posted to Psyche, and thus on the Captain’s list, so it was not unreasonable to expect he would do Granger a favor in return.“I think I can rely on him to accommodate me in this matter.In the meantime, as we are at Windsor, I will leave it to you to go talk to Mr. Barnett.”
A groom took their horses, and while Treadway headed to the lower ward, which housed the old prison, Granger went to his own residence, the Middle Ward.The few servants there were horrified to find him arriving with no notice, but Granger put them at ease, then relaxed in the parlor with a glass of wine.It had been a long and eventful morning, and while Granger was relieved to have stopped the duel, he was irritated at not having the opportunity to finish his meeting with Spencer, Whitworth, and Daventry.He let that peeve him for a bit, then decided that he trusted Daventry and would most likely act on his recommendations, so he would have to make do with things as they were. He applied himself to a more productive use of his time and drafted a letter to Bertie in India. He was fairly certain Barnett would not agree to let the affair go, so he opted to make use of the opportunity to write to his older brother.
“My lord, Major Treadway is here,” his steward told him.
“Please show him in,” Granger said, even as he prepared another glass for Treadway.Treadway appeared just as Granger completed that task, so he handed the Major his libation and they both took their seats in the comfortable leather chairs Granger had acquired for just this purpose.
“Mr. Barnett does not see that honor has been satisfied, and is vehemently demanding to be released, my lord,” Treadway said.
“Much as we had suspected,” Granger said.“I will prepare orders for his consignment aboard Psyche, then I will task Major Gambier to take him back to London and deliver him on board.I will want you to leave before them and alert Captain Preston that he will be arriving, and then see to his reception on board.”
“We will be ready to go when you give the word, my lord,” Treadway said.“And what of Lord Cavendish?”
“I will deal with him after I have finished with Barnett,” Granger said.Treadway left him, and Granger spent the next quarter of an hour frantically drafting orders for Preston.When he was done, he went to the lower ward, to the prison. He found Gambier and Treadway waiting for him.“Please show me to Mr. Barnett.”
“Of course, my lord,” Gambier said.They led him to what was an ancient prison, one that was only effective because there were Life Guardsmen there to ensure no determined effort was made to break out of the decrepit cells.
“My lord, I hope you have come to release me,” Barnett said.
“Rather, I have come to confirm that you are committed to pursuing this affair of honor,” Granger said evenly.
“Your Lordship interrupted the duel between Lord Frederick Cavendish and me, so honor has not been satisfied.I will avail myself of an opportunity to pursue that matter with him at our soonest convenience,” he said arrogantly.
“You have been found guilty of dueling on the grounds of His Majesty’s Castle at Windsor,” Granger said.“You have shown no remorse for your crime, and on the contrary, have expressed your desire to further desecrate His Majesty’s laws upon your release.”
“Dueling is the way gentlemen settle their disagreements, my lord,” Barnett said.
Granger ignored him.“You are hereby sentenced to serve aboard one of His Majesty’s vessels for a period not less than six months, during which time you can use your skills with a pistol and sword against His Majesty’s enemies instead of breaking His Majesty’s laws.”
“You cannot do that!” Barnett objected.
“Major Treadway, here are your orders,” Granger said, ignoring Barnett. He handed Treadway the orders for Preston, as well as the letter for Bertie. “I would have you leave at once, as we discussed.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Treadway said, and left quickly.
“Major Gambier, here are your instructions,” Granger said, handing him orders to take Barnett to Psyche.“Executing them as I have instructed will earn yourself back into my good graces.”
“Of course, my lord,” Gambier said, and was truly horrified at Granger’s allusion to their encounter on the knoll, where Gambier had been so dilatory in obeying Granger’s orders.
“My lord, you would do this to save your friend, but it will cost you the enmity of the Guild,” Barnett said with a sneer.
“Mr. Barnett, I have tangled with the Guild before, and every time I have come away much richer and much more exalted, while they have only found their power and influence much reduced,” Granger said.“I am not afraid of a group of merchants who give themselves airs.”Granger nodded to Gambier, who instructed four of his troopers to grab Barnett and drag him to the waiting coach.
“I have left Lieutenant Nichols here, my lord, with 12 men to assist you,” Gambier said.
“Thank you, Major,” Granger said.“I will give you leave to execute my orders.”
“Yes, my lord,” Gambier said, and then he was gone, leaving Granger alone with Nichols and a few of the Life Guards.
“Please have Lord Cavendish escorted to my quarters in the Middle Ward,” Granger ordered.
“Yes, my lord,” Nichols said.Granger went back to his residence and gave orders for the few servants that were there to prepare something for him to eat, a request which would undoubtedly stymie them, given that the castle was all but deserted.
Cavendish arrived, escorted by Nichols and a contingent of men, but Granger had no worries that Cavendish would cause him problems, so he dismissed them.“Have a seat,” Granger said coolly, to this man who had a large piece of his heart, but with whom he was incredibly vexed.“I have asked them to pull something together for me for dinner, so we will have to hope there is enough to share.”
“That would be most welcome,” Cavendish said, smiling weakly.“I suppose you are wondering why I was about to fight a duel with Barnett.”
“I am more curious as to why you have been avoiding me, and why you did not even bother to return the messages I sent you,” Granger said angrily, daring Cavendish to deny he’d received them.
“I was worried that you would try and stop me,” he said.
“You were that determined to fight Barnett?” Granger asked, stunned.“He would most likely have won.”
“Most likely,” Cavendish agreed, then focused his eyes fully onto Granger’s.“It was a fate I welcomed.”
“I cannot understand how you would so cavalierly throw your life away, when I, for one, so cherish it,” Granger said.
The servants came in and announced dinner, such as it was, but Granger made sure to thank them profusely for their efforts.He and Cavendish sat down to dine, both of them contemplating Cavendish’s words.The food was adequate.
“So what did you do with Barnett?” Cavendish asked.
“I gave orders for him to be consigned to one of His Majesty’s vessels for a period of not less than six months,” Granger said. “He can use his martial skills on the French.”
“I suspect he will spend much less time than that on board whichever ship he is posted to,” Cavendish said, alluding to the powerful forces that would work to retrieve the errant young man.
“We’ll see about that,” Granger said cryptically.
“When do you sail?” Cavendish asked.
“We sail in the next day or two,” Granger informed him.
“We?” Cavendish asked.
“I can hardly sentence Barnett to service aboard one of His Majesty’s ships and let you simply walk away,” Granger said.“So I have decided to take you with me.”
“I have obligations here, and I will be needed when His Majesty returns from Weymouth,” Cavendish objected.
“And if you would have been killed by Barnett, you would not have been around to fulfill your obligations, so there’s an end to it,” Granger said.
“George…” Cavendish began, a prelude to arguing with him.
Granger ignored him and rang for his staff, which had the effect of shutting Cavendish up.“Please send for Lieutenant Nichols.”
“Right away, my lord,” the servant said, then left the room.Nichols appeared within less than a minute of his departure.
“My lord?” Nichols asked.
“Here are your orders,” Granger said, handing him the papers.“You are to take Lord Frederick Cavendish to his lodgings, where he is to have no more than a quarter of an hour to assemble a trunk of belongings.He is to speak to no one but you.You will then take him to HMS Valiant.He is to remain aboard there, and have no contact with anyone outside the ship.”Cavendish glared at Granger at being treated in this way, but Granger ignored him.
“Yes, my lord,” Nichols said.“I have taken the liberty of leaving six of my men to escort you back to London.”
“I am much obliged,” Granger said.
“My lord, if you will please come with me,” Nichols said to Cavendish.Cavendish said nothing, but merely followed Nichols from the room, although he did give Granger one final nasty look as he left the room.Granger retired to his office and drafted a report to the King and to the Prince of Wales, then, in company with his escort, made the trek back to London.
“I fear this will be our last time together before I leave,” Granger said to Caroline sadly as he finished his breakfast.“I am to meet with Spencer, then I am to sail this afternoon.”
“I will miss you,” she said, words that sounded trite, but were full of meaning.
“And I will miss you,” Granger replied, smiling at her gently.
“You have left me a hornet’s nest to deal with,” she said, grinning slightly.“I suspect that the elder Mr. Barnett will have spent most of the night and this morning motivating his friends to overturn your order condemning his son to His Majesty’s Navy.”
“He will be most disappointed to learn that his son is on his way to India,” Granger said, making Caroline laugh.
“Indeed he will,” she agreed.
“I am mindful that we have reached a détente of sorts with the Guild,” Granger said.“I fear they may see this as a violation of that agreement.”
“I do not think that they will,” Caroline asserted.“It is just as easy for me to point out that by coming after Cavendish, they were the ones who drew first blood.I suspect the two will ultimately cancel each other out.”
“Then I am confident that is what will happen,” Granger said with a smile.
“I am almost wondering whether you won’t have stirred up more problems by taking Cavendish with you,” she mused.
“I could hardly let him free when I dealt with Barnett so harshly,” Granger objected.
“I didn’t say you weren’t fair, George, I just said that people may be annoyed to find Cavendish spirited away.”
“I think, based on what he has been dealing with, some time away will do him good,” Granger said.
“That is most probably true,” she agreed.He finished his breakfast, and then took his leave of Caroline and his children.He was finding that leaving them behind to go to sea was becoming more and more painful, to the point where it was now almost excruciating.He attributed that to his restored relationship with Caroline, and to the fact that his children were older now and he was bonding with them.Winkler, Jacobs, and Lefavre had already gone to the ship, so he was able to use the solitude during his ride to the Admiralty to wipe his tears and begin to repair his psyche.
Granger almost sighed at the crowds that had gathered by the Admiralty to greet him, but of course such a gesture was unthinkable, so instead he merely smiled and raised his hat to thank these people who accosted him, leaving the task of clearing a path to his footmen and the marines.He signed in with the secretary, then stood off in the corner, probably seeming quite antisocial to those in the waiting room, when in fact he was steeling himself for a meeting with Spencer whilst simultaneously reeling from saying goodbye to his family.It took some fifteen minutes for Spencer to summon him, and in that time Granger managed to pull his mind together.
“You are to sail as soon as the tide turns,” Spencer said curtly, a rude greeting considering the circumstances.
“Aye aye, sir,” Granger said.
“I’ve had Barnett’s friends all but pelting me with demands that I attempt to intercept and recall the Psyche,” he grumbled.
“I should think that would be quite difficult, sir,” Granger said, barely hiding his grin.
“I should think,” Spencer said caustically.“Especially since the winds are fair for her trip down the Channel.”
“Then that means they will unfortunately be foul for my journey, sir,” Granger said, hoping to move them on to the more important part of their conversation: his mission.
“Well, I can’t retrieve Barnett, but I can at least keep Cavendish at home,” Spencer said.“You can send him ashore before you leave.”Granger was stunned at this order, so stunned as to be temporarily speechless.He had never expected that Spencer would try to interfere with the sentence he had meted out to Cavendish.“Was I not clear?”
“On what authority are you making that demand, sir?” Granger asked carefully.
“As the person who gave you command of the Valiant in the first place,” Spencer said loudly.
“Then sir, I will have to amend his sentence to something of a similar nature,” Granger said.Spencer stared at Granger, his eyes betraying the fury behind them, but Granger merely looked back calmly, waiting for his normally even-tempered boss to calm down.He watched as Spencer grasped that this was one of those situations where authority and responsibility were diverse, and that Lord Spencer as First Lord was perfectly capable of giving Captain Granger orders, but Lord Spencer as First Lord had no authority to dictate to Lord Granger, the Constable and Governor of Windsor.“It would be seen as incredibly unfair to have Mr. Barnett sent to Calcutta while Cavendish is allowed to remain here.”
“His Majesty may not agree with you,” Spencer noted.
“I sent His Majesty, as well as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, a summary of the events as well as my actions,” Granger replied.“I will have to hope they think I acted reasonably.”
“If not, I will have to find another ship to chase after you,” Spencer grumbled.
“Fortunately, sir, we are much closer than Mr. Barnett,” Granger said with a smile.
“Fortunately,” Spencer agreed, and seemed almost like his normally pleasant self.“In the meantime, Cavendish will probably be useful.”
“I’m fairly certain that he will, sir,” Granger said.
“Admiral Dickson was most agreeable to your proposal,” Spencer said, seemingly re-emerging himself into his bad mood.
“I will have to hope that I can capture at least a few prizes to placate his greed,” Granger noted ruefully.
“Well that’s not your primary mission, but you’ll be sailing into a dangerous sea.You should consider any Danish, Swedish, or Russian ships you encounter to be hostile, and you would be wise to approach German vessels with some trepidation,” Spencer said.
“I will do my best to avoid creating any additional problems, in any event, sir,” Granger said.
“I would advise you to spend some time with Lord Whitworth on the initial part of your voyage,” Spencer said.“He can probably acquaint you with the Northern powers, their relative strengths, and the best way to deal with them.”
“I have found Lord Whitworth to be a font of knowledge, sir,” Granger agreed.
“You’ll also find a new crewmember waiting for you aboard Valiant,” Spencer said.Granger raised an eyebrow but said nothing, waiting for Spencer to explain.“Mr. Erasmus Schein.”
“And what is Mr. Schein’s role aboard Valiant, sir?” Granger asked, unable to fully hide his nervousness.
“He is to be an additional master, one who has vast knowledge of the Baltic,” Spencer said.
“I suspect he will be quite useful, sir,” Granger said.“As the Baltic is known to be a place of shallow waters, shoals, and sand bars, it will be good to have someone to augment what the charts say.”
“That was on my mind,” Spencer said with a smile, even as he stood up.“I wish you luck Granger.This isn’t an easy mission, but I am confident you’ll do well.”
“Thank you, sir,” Granger said, smiling back and rising at the same time.“I will certainly do my best.”
“I haven’t forgotten my pledge to see you through any difficulties you may encounter with Daventry,” Spencer cautioned.
“Sir, Lord Daventry and I usually see eye to eye on things, but knowing that I have your confidence and support is of immeasurable value,” Granger replied.
“A good voyage to you,” Spencer said.And with that, Granger left the Admiralty, fought his way through the crowds to his carriage, and headed to the Tower of London, where Valiant was moored.People near the dock recognized his carriage, and another crowd gathered.Granger decided their cheers were the best send off of all, since he would be able to focus on the joy of escaping from the throngs of people who plagued him whenever he went out in public.He shed them like a snake sheds it skin when he walked past the sentries, then strode confidently up the gangway to his ship.
“Welcome back, my lord,” Weston said pleasantly.“Lord Whitworth’s things just arrived, and he is to be here shortly.”
“I suspect that would explain the chaos in my cabin,” Granger said with a smile as he glanced aft and saw people scurrying about.They’d have to reconfigure his cabin to include a compartment for Cavendish.“We will sail as soon as the tide turns.”
“Hopefully Lords Whitworth and Daventry will be on board by then,” Weston joked.
“If they are not, let us hope they can hire boats with fast oars,” Granger joked back, making both of them chuckle.