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"The Custom of the Army" is a novella in the Lord John Series by Diana Gabaldon. It was originally published in 2010 in the anthology Warriors (Volume 1), which was edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.
On May 21, 2012, "The Custom of the Army" was published as a standalone ebook. It is also included in a book-length collection of Gabaldon's short stories, A Trail of Fire.
In late spring of 1759, the morning after participating in a deadly duel, Lord John Grey is presented with a series of letters: the first demands satisfaction for compromising the honor of the lady over whom the duel was fought; the second is a plea from the lady herself to "do something"; the third is confirmation of Grey's promotion to lieutenant colonel, earned at the Battle of Crefeld the year before; and the fourth is a summons to represent a companion officer who is being court-martialed in Canada. Grey takes this last as a means to escape the escalating imbroglio, and leaves immediately for Canada.
In Louisbourg, he joins General Wolfe's forces during their three month siege of Quebec, but the General is currently not available. During his stay, Lord John discovers his cousin by marriage, Captain Malcolm Stubbs, in questionable living arrangements and with an illegitimate child; however, he is unable to confront Stubbs who is currently on a scouting mission. Meanwhile, his friend and former lover Charlie Carruthers is under house arrest and in failing health, awaiting the court martial that has not yet been scheduled due to the ongoing siege of Quebec. Grey passes the time on a fishing trip with Manoke, an Indian guide who takes more than a passing interest in Grey.
Upon his return in September, Grey finds both Wolfe and Stubbs have returned as well. Grey violently objects to Stubbs dishonorable behavior, and briefly considers, but refrains from, killing him.
Wolfe invites Grey, an artillery officer who has experience with Highlanders, to participate in the daring night-time landing of cannon along the St. Lawrence River, through French sentries, and up the steep cliffs. After scaling the cliffs with the cannon crews, Grey is with the 78th Fraser Highlanders during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham which takes place hours later.
Captain Stubbs is critically injured in the battle, and Grey, with the assistance of another officer, carries him back to the medics, which saves his life, but not his leg. After the battle, Stubbs is shipped back to England on disability and Grey returns to find both his friend Charlie and the mother of Stubbs' illegitimate son dead of smallpox. The infant's grandmother sells the child to Grey. He takes the baby to a Catholic orphanage, leaving him with an annual stipend and the name John Cinnamon.
- Lord John Grey
- The Honorable Caroline Woodford
- Dr. John Hunter, a surgeon and notorious bodysnatcher
- Edwin Nicholls, a poet of execrable verse
- Lady Lucinda Joffrey, hostess of the electric eel party
- Horace Suddfield, owner of the electric eel
- Dobbs, Suddfield's assistant
- Harold Grey, Duke of Pardloe
- Lady Dorothea Grey
- Tom Byrd, Lord John's valet
- Richard Tarleton, Lancers lieutant who witnesses the duel
- Captain Charlie Carruthers
- Captain Malcolm Stubbs
- Manoke, an Indian guide
- Captain Woodford, of no relation to the Honorable Caroline
- Sergeant Aloysius Cutter
- Major Gerald Siverly
- General James Wolfe
- Admiral Holmes
- Bernard Adams (mention only)
- Captain Simon Fraser of Balnain
- Father LeCarré
- Baby John Cinnamon