Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone.... dailylines of the 9th book (continuation) by Diana Gabaldon

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Excerpt "The Last Time"

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[This is an excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon]

They passed a group of men, twenty or so, faceless under the dark brims of their hats, but the moon lit a pale cloud of the dust kicked up by their boots, so it seemed they walked knee-deep through a rising fog.  They were Scotch-Irish, talking loudly, noticeably drunk and arguing among themselves, and Jamie and Ian passed by unnoticed.  Francis Locke had said there were a number of militia companies in the town; these men had the look of new militia—self-important and unsure at the same time, and wanting to show that they weren’t.

They crossed through the Square and the streets behind it, and found silence again amid the calling of owls from the trees near Town Creek.  Ian broke it, talking low, halfway to himself and halfway not.

 “Last time I walked like this—at night, I mean, just walking, not huntin’—was just after Monmouth,” he said.  “I’d been in the British camp, wi’ his lordship, and he asked me to stay, because I’d an arrow in my arm—ye recall that, aye?  Ye broke the shaft for me, earlier that day.”

 “I’d forgot,” Jamie admitted.

 “Well, it was a long day.”

 “Aye.  I remember bits and pieces—I lost my horse when he went off a bridge into one of those hellish morasses, and I’m never going to forget the sound o’ that.”  A deep shudder curdled his wame, recalling the taste of his own vomit.  “And then I remember General Washington—were ye there, Ian, when he turned back the retreat after Lee made a collieshangie of it?”

“Aye,” Ian said, and laughed a little.  “Though I didna take much notice. I had my own bit o’ trouble to settle, with the Abenaki    And I did settle it, too,” he added, grimness coming into his voice.  “Your men got one o’ them, but I killed the other in the British camp that night, wi’ his own tomahawk.”

 “I hadna heard about that,” Jamie said, surprised.  “Ye did it in the British camp?   Ye never told me that.  How did ye come to be there, for that matter?   Last I saw ye was just before the battle, and the next I saw ye, your cousin William was bringin’ what I thought was your corpse into Freehold on a mule.”

 And the next time he’d seen William had been in Savannah, when his son had come to ask his help in saving Jane Pocock.  They’d been too late.  That failure had been neither of their faults, but his heart still hurt for the poor wee lassie…and for his poor lad.

 “I dinna mind most o’ that, myself,” Ian said.  “I came in wi’ Lord John—we got arrested together—but then I walked out o’ the camp, meanin’ to go find Rachel or you, but I was bad wi’ the fever, the night goin’ in and out around me like as if it was breathin’ and  I was walkin’ along through the stars wi’ my Da beside me, just talkin’ to him, as if….”

 “As if he was there,” Jamie finished, smiling.   “I expect he was.  I feel him beside me, now and then.”  He glanced automatically to his right as he said this, as though Ian Mhor might indeed be there now.

 “We were talkin’ o’ the Indian I’d just killed—and I said it put me in mind o’ that gobshite who tried to extort ye, uncle—the one I killed there by the fire.  I said something about how it seemed different, killing a man face to face, but I’d thought I ought to be used to such things by now, and I wasn’t.   And he said I maybe shouldn’t be,” Ian said thoughtfully.  “He said it couldna be good for my soul, bein’ used to things like that.”

 “Your Da’s a wise man.”

Excerpt "Jenny's got a gun"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.]

 “Here.”  Jamie pulled one of the pistols from his belt and handed it to his sister.  Who—to Rachel’s surprise—merely nodded and pointed it at a broken wagon-wheel left at the side of the road, checking the sight.

 “Powder?” Jenny asked, sliding the pistol into her belt.

 “Here.”  Jamie took a cartridge box off his neck and swung the strap of it carefully over Jenny’s white cap.  “Ye’ve enough powder and shot to kill a dozen men, and six fresh-made cartridges to give ye a head-start.” 

 Jenny caught sight of Rachel’s face at “kill a dozen men,” and smiled slightly.  Rachel wasn’t reassured.

 “Dinna fash, _a nighean_,” Jenny said, and patted her arm before settling the cartridge box into place.  “I willna shoot anyone unless they mean us harm.”

 “I—would greatly prefer that thee didn’t shoot anyone in _any_ circumstances,” Rachel said carefully.  She hadn’t eaten much for breakfast, but her stomach felt tight.  “Not on—on our behalf, certainly.”  But she’d cupped Oggy’s bonneted head at the thought, pressing him close.

 “Is it all right wi’ you if I shoot them on my own behalf?” Jenny asked, arching one black brow.  “Because I’m no standing for anyone molesting my grandson.”

 “Dinna be fratchetty, Mam,” Ian said tolerantly, before Rachel could reply to this.  “Ye ken if we meet any villains, Rachel will talk them into a stupor afore ye have to shoot one.”  He gave Rachel a private smile, and she breathed a little easier.

Jenny made a guttural sound that might have been agreement or mere politeness, but didn’t say more about shooting anyone.

Excerpt "fresh over old food" 

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          I drew breath and rubbed two fingers between my brows.

 “Have you a headache?” Fanny asked, brightening.  “There’s fresh willow bark; I could brew you some tea in a moment!”

 I smiled at her.  She was fascinated by herbs and adored all the grinding, boiling and steeping.

 “Thank you, sweetheart,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just trying to think what the devil to eat with the quail.”

    Meals were the daily bane of my existence; not so much the constant work of picking, cleaning, chopping, cooking—though those activities were fairly baneful in themselves—but primarily, the never-ending chore of remembering what we had on hand, and balancing the effort required to make it edible against the knowledge of what might spoil if we didn’t eat it right away.  Bother nutrition; I crammed apples, raisins and nuts into people more or less constantly, and poked green stuff down their reluctant gullets whenever I got the chance, and no one had died of scurvy yet.

Excerpt  "Fearless Jenny"

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“Thee would make a good Friend, thee knows,” Rachel remarked, holding back a laurel branch for her mother-in-law, who was burdened by a large basket of quilting.  Rachel herself was burdened with Oggy, who had fallen asleep in the sling she carried him in.

Janet Murray gave her a sharp look, and made what Claire had privately described to Rachel as a Scottish noise, this being a mingled snort and gargling sound that might indicate anything from mild amusement or approval to contempt, derision, or an indication of impending forcible action.  At the moment, Rachel thought her mother-in-law was amused, and smiled herself.

“Thee is forthright and direct,” she pointed out.  “And honest.  Or at least I suppose thee to be,” she added, slightly teasing.  “I can’t say I have ever caught thee in a lie.”

“Wait ‘til ye’ve kent me a bit longer, lass, before ye make judgements like that,” Jenny advised her.  “I’m a fine wee liar, when the need arises.  What else, though?” Her dark blue eyes creased a little—definitely amusement.  Rachel smiled back, and thought for a moment, threading her way over a steep patch of gravel where the trail had washed out, then reaching back to take the basket.

“Thee is compassionate.  Kind.  And fearless,” she said, watching Jenny come down, half-sliding and grabbing branches to keep erect.

Her mother-in-law’s head turned sharply, blue eyes wide.

“Fearless?” she said, incredulous.  “_Me_?”  She made a noise that Rachel would have spelled as “Psssht.”   “I’ve been scairt to the bone since I was ten years old, _a leannan_.  But ye get used to it, ken?”   She took back the basket, and Rachel hoisted Oggy, whose weight had doubled the moment he fell asleep, into a more secure position.

“What happened when thee was ten?” she asked, curious.

“My mither died,” Jenny answered.  Her expression and voice were both matter-of-fact, but Rachel could hear bereavement in it, plain as the high, thin call of a hermit thrush.

“Mine died when I was born,” Rachel said, after a long pause.  “I can’t say that I miss her, as I never knew her—though of course…”

“They say ye canna miss what ye never had, but they’re wrong about that one,” Jenny said, and touched Rachel’s cheek with the palm of her hand, small and warm.  “Watch where ye’re walkin’, lass.  It’s slick underfoot.”

“Yes.”  Rachel kept her eyes on the ground, striding wide to avoid a muddy patch where a tiny spring bubbled up.  “I dream, sometimes.  There’s a woman, but I don’t know who she is.  Perhaps it’s my mother.  She seems kind, but she doesn’t say much.  She just looks at me.”

“Does she look _like_ ye, lass?”

Rachel shrugged, balancing Oggy with a hand under his bottom.

“She has dark hair, but I can’t ever remember her face, when I wake up.”

“And ye wouldna ken what she looked like, alive.”  Jenny nodded, looking at something behind her own eyes.  “I kent mine—and if ye ever want to know what _she_ looked like, just go and have a keek at Brianna, for she’s Ellen MacKenzie Fraser to the life—though a wee bit bigger.”

“I’ll do that,” Rachel assured her.  She found her new cousin-in-law slightly intimidating, though Ian clearly loved her.  “Scared, though—and thee said thee has been frightened ever since?”  She didn’t think she’d ever met someone less frightened than Janet Murray, whom she’d seen only yesterday face down a huge raccoon on the cabin’s porch, driving it off with a broom and a Scottish execration, in spite of the animal’s enormous claws and menacing aspect.

Jenny glanced at her, surprised, and changed the heavy basket from one arm to the other with a small grunt as the trail narrowed.

“Oh, no scairt for myself, _a nighean_, I dinna think I’ve ever worrit about bein’ killed or the like.   No, scairt for _them_.  Scairt I wouldna be able to manage, to take care o’ them.”


“Jamie and Da,” Jenny said, frowning a little at the squashy ground under her feet.   It had rained hard the night before, and even the open ground was muddy. “I didna ken how to take care of them.  I kent well I couldna fill my mother’s place for either one.  See, I thought they’d die wi’out her.”

_And you’d be left entirely alone_, Rachel thought.  _Wanting to die, too, and not knowing how.  It does seem much easier for men; I wonder why? Do they not think anyone needs them?_

“Thee managed, though,” she said, and Jenny shrugged.

“I put on her apron and made their supper.  That was all I kent to do.  Feed them.”

“I’d suppose that was the most important thing.”  She bent her head and brushed the top of Oggy’s cap with her lips.  His mere presence made her breasts tingle and ache.  Jenny saw that, and smiled, in a rueful sort of way.

“Aye.  When ye ha’  bairns, there’s that wee time when ye really _are_ all they need.  And then they leave your arms and ye’re scairt all over again, because now ye ken all the things that could harm them, and you not able to keep them from it.”

Excerpt " Lord John letter"

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#Meanwhilesomethingtobegoingonwith  #distraction

 I had made up my mind what to do about Denny within moments of shouting “Pig-headed Scot!” at Jamie, but the ensuing conversation with Fanny had momentarily driven the matter out of my mind, and what with one thing and another, it was late the next afternoon before I managed to find Brianna alone.

 Sean McHugh and his two biggest lads had come in the morning—with their hammers—to help with the framing of the second story; Jamie and Roger had been up there with them, and the effect of five large men armed with hammers was much like that of a platoon of overweight woodpeckers marching in close formation overhead.   They’d been at it all morning—causing everyone else to flee the house—but had broken for a late lunch down by the creek, and I’d seen Bree go back inside with Mandy.

I found her in my rudimentary surgery, sitting in the late sun that fell through the big window, the largest window in the New House.   There was no glass in it yet—there might not be glass before spring, if then—but the flood of unobstructed afternoon light was glorious, glowing from the new yellow-pine boards of the floor, the soft butternut of Bree’s homespun skirt and the fiery nimbus of her hair, half-bound in a long, loose plait.

She was drawing, and watching her absorbed in the paper pinned to her lapdesk, I felt a deep envy of her gift—not for the first time.  I would have given a lot to be able to capture what I saw now, Brianna, bronze and fire in the deep clear light, head bent as she watched Mandy on the floor, chanting to herself as she built an edifice of wooden blocks and the small, heavy glass bottles I used for tinctures and dried herbs.

 “What are you thinking, Mama?”

 “What did you say?”  I looked up at Bree, blinking, and her mouth curled up.

 “I said,” she repeated patiently, “what are you thinking?  You have that _look_.”

 “Which look is that?” I asked warily. It was an article of faith amongst the members of my family that I couldn’t keep secrets; that everything I thought was visible on my face.  They weren’t entirely right, but they weren’t completely wrong, either.  What never occurred to them was just how transparent they were to _me_.

 Brianna tilted her head to one side, eyes narrowed as she examined my face. I smiled pleasantly, putting out a hand to intercept Mandy as she hurtled past me, three medicine bottles in hand.

 “You can’t take Grannie’s bottles outside, sweetheart,” I said, removing them deftly from her chubby grasp.  “Grannie needs them to put medicine in.”

 “But I’m gonna catch leeches wif Jemmy and Aidan and Germain!”

 “You couldn’t get even one leech into a bottle that size,” I said, standing up and placing the bottles on a shelf out of reach.  I scanned the next shelf down and found a slightly chipped pottery bowl with a lid.

 “Here, take this.”  I wrapped a small linen towel around the bowl and tucked it into the pocket of her pinafore.   “Be sure to put in a little mud—a _little_ mud, all right?  No more than a pinch—and some of the waterweed you find the leeches in.   That will keep them happy.”

 I watched her trot out the door, black curls bouncing, then braced myself and turned back to Bree.

 “Well, if you must know, I was thinking how much I should tell you.”

 She laughed, though with sympathy.

 “That’s the look, all right.   You always look like a heron staring into the water when you have something you can’t quite decide whether to tell somebody.”

 “A heron?”

 “Beady-eyed and intent,” she explained.  “A contemplative killer. I’ll draw you doing it one of these days, so you can see.”

 “Contemplative…I’ll take your word for it.  I don’t think you’ve ever met Denzell Hunter, have you?”  She shook her head.

 “No.  Ian mentioned him once or twice, I think—a Quaker doctor?  Isn’t he Rachel’s brother?”

 “That’s him.   To keep it to the essentials for the moment, he’s a wonderful doctor, a good friend of mine, and besides being Rachel’s brother, he’s married to the daughter of the Duke of Pardloe—who happens to be Lord John Grey’s elder brother.”

 “Lord John?”  Her face, already glowing with light, broke into a brilliant smile.   “My favorite person—outside the family.  Have you heard from him?  How is he?”

 “Fine, to the best of my knowledge.  I saw him briefly in Savannah a few months ago—the British army is still there, so it’s likely he is, too.”   I’d thought out what to say, in hopes of avoiding anything awkward, but a script is not a conversation.  “I was thinking that you might write to him.”

 “I suppose I might,” she said, tilting her head and looking at me sideways, one red brow raised.  “Right this minute?”

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon]

Excerpt "Claire's Surgery"

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It was early afternoon and there was a storm coming on; the sky was dark enough that I’d had to bring Jamie’s reading-globe to my surgery and light a candle in order to see what I was doing.

The only way I had of crudely calibrating the dosage of a liquid medication was by estimating the relative color and turbidity of a sample, matched against a set of reference samples that I’d tested on one or another family member, relentlessly questioning them at ten minute intervals through a headache, belly-ache, fever or freshly-bound up wound as a means of estimating the solution’s effectiveness. The main drawback to this method—other than the testy reactions of my subjects--was that I had to make fresh reference samples at least once or twice a month.

“Either that, or hit Jamie on the head every Tuesday with a mallet by way of standardization,” I muttered to myself, holding up a vial against the soft clear light that came through the water-filled globe.

White willow bark—the best for the purpose [ck availability], brewed up into a tea that ranged from bright gold to a vivid red, to a color that looked like drying blood, if you left it to steep for long enough. And the flavor ranged from a pleasant tang to something that had to be mixed with honey, whisky, or both, in order to be swallowed at all.

“Why are ye wanting to hit me on the heid, Sassenach?” Jamie inquired, manifesting himself in the doorway with a silent unexpectedness that made me yelp and hurl my pestle at him in reflex. He caught it, also by reflex.

“Oh, ye meant it,” he said, eyeing me warily. “What have I done?”

“God knows,” I said, coming to take the pestle from him. “But if you hurt yourself doing it, I need you to try out the latest batch of willow-bark tea.” He’d been hunting for the last two days with Ian and the Beardsley boys, and smelled of blood, animal hair, fresh leaves and his own musk.

He made a Scottish noise indicating polite revulsion and bent to kiss me on the forehead.

“It doesna have to be me, does it?”

“No. Why, does someone else have a gripe, headache or other painful complaint?”

The look of amusement on his face faded.

“Aye, that’s what I came to tell ye.”

Excerpt "Brees letter" 

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I had made up my mind what to do about Denny within moments of shouting “Pig-headed Scot!” at Jamie, but the ensuing conversation with Fanny had momentarily driven the matter out of my mind, and what with one thing and another, it was late the next afternoon before I managed to find Brianna alone.

Sean McHugh and his two biggest lads had come in the morning—with their hammers—to help with the framing of the second story; Jamie and Roger had been up there with them, and the effect of five large men armed with hammers was much like that of a platoon of overweight woodpeckers marching in close formation overhead. They’d been at it all morning—causing everyone else to flee the house—but had broken for a late lunch down by the creek, and I’d seen Bree go back inside with Mandy.

I found her in my rudimentary surgery, sitting in the late sun that fell through the big window, the largest window in the New House. There was no glass in it yet—there might not be glass before spring, if then—but the flood of unobstructed afternoon light was glorious, glowing from the new yellow-pine boards of the floor, the soft butternut of Bree’s homespun skirt and the fiery nimbus of her hair, half-bound in a long, loose plait.

She was drawing, and watching her absorbed in the paper pinned to her lapdesk, I felt a deep envy of her gift—not for the first time. I would have given a lot to be able to capture what I saw now, Brianna, bronze and fire in the deep clear light, head bent as she watched Mandy on the floor, chanting to herself as she built an edifice of wooden blocks and the small, heavy glass bottles I used for tinctures and dried herbs.

“What are you thinking, Mama?”

“What did you say?” I looked up at Bree, blinking, and her mouth curled up.

“I said,” she repeated patiently, “what are you thinking? You have that _look_.”

“Which look is that?” I asked warily. It was an article of faith amongst the members of my family that I couldn’t keep secrets; that everything I thought was visible on my face. They weren’t entirely right, but they weren’t completely wrong, either. What never occurred to them was just how transparent they were to _me_.

Brianna tilted her head to one side, eyes narrowed as she examined my face. I smiled pleasantly, putting out a hand to intercept Mandy as she hurtled past me, three medicine bottles in hand.

“You can’t take Grannie’s bottles outside, sweetheart,” I said, removing them deftly from her chubby grasp. “Grannie needs them to put medicine in.”

“But I’m gonna catch leeches wif Jemmy and Aidan and Germain!”

“You couldn’t get even one leech into a bottle that size,” I said, standing up and placing the bottles on a shelf out of reach. I scanned the next shelf down and found a slightly chipped pottery bowl with a lid.

“Here, take this.” I wrapped a small linen towel around the bowl and tucked it into the pocket of her pinafore. “Be sure to put in a little mud—a _little_ mud, all right? No more than a pinch—and some of the waterweed you find the leeches in. That will keep them happy.”

I watched her trot out the door, black curls bouncing, then braced myself and turned back to Bree.

“Well, if you must know, I was thinking how much I should tell you.”

She laughed, though with sympathy.

“That’s the look, all right. You always look like a heron staring into the water when you have something you can’t quite decide whether to tell somebody.”

“A heron?”

“Beady-eyed and intent,” she explained. “A contemplative killer. I’ll draw you doing it one of these days, so you can see.”

“Contemplative…I’ll take your word for it. I don’t think you’ve ever met Denzell Hunter, have you?” She shook her head.

“No. Ian mentioned him once or twice, I think—a Quaker doctor? Isn’t he Rachel’s brother?”

“That’s him. To keep it to the essentials for the moment, he’s a wonderful doctor, a good friend of mine, and besides being Rachel’s brother, he’s married to the daughter of the Duke of Pardloe—who happens to be Lord John Grey’s elder brother.”

“Lord John?” Her face, already glowing with light, broke into a brilliant smile. “My favorite person—outside the family. Have you heard from him? How is he?”

“Fine, to the best of my knowledge. I saw him briefly in Savannah a few months ago—the British army is still there, so it’s likely he is, too.” I’d thought out what to say, in hopes of avoiding anything awkward, but a script is not a conversation. “I was thinking that you might write to him.”

“I suppose I might,” she said, tilting her head and looking at me sideways, one red brow raised. “Right this minute?”

Excerpt "Gun Runners"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon]

 I found Young Ian, not in his upper field, but in the woods nearby, rifle in hand.

 “Don’t shoot!” I called, spotting him through the brush.  “It’s me!”

 “I couldna mistake ye for anything save a small bear or a large hog, auntie,” he assured me, as I pawed my way through a clump of dogwood toward him.  “And I dinna want either one of those today.”

 “Fine.  How about a nice, fat pair of gun-runners?”

 I explained as well as I could while jog-trotting along behind him as he detoured through the field in order to grab his scythe, which he thrust into my hands.

 “I dinna think ye’ll have to use it, auntie,” he said, grinning at the look on my face.  “But if ye stand there blocking the trail, it would be a desperate man would try to go through ye.”

 When we arrived, we discovered that the trail had already been effectively blocked by the first mule’s burden, which he had succeeded in shedding completely.   When Ian and I showed up a little way below the gun-runners, the first mule, enjoying his new lightness of spirit, was nimbly climbing over the pile of bags, boxes and wicker-work toward us, intent on joining his fellow, who was not letting his own pack stop him from browsing a large patch of blackberry brambles that edged the trail just there.

 Evidently, we had arrived almost at the same time as Jamie and Tom McLeod, for the two gun-runners had turned to gawk at me and Ian just as Jamie and Tom came into sight on the trail above them.

 “Who the devil are you?”  one of the men demanded, looking from me to Ian in bewilderment.   Ian had tied up his hair in a topknot to keep it out of the way while mowing, and without his shirt, deeply tanned and tattooed, looked very like the Mohawk he was.  I didn’t want to think what I must look like, comprehensively disheveled and with my hair full of leaves and coming down, but I gripped my scythe and gave them a stern look.

 “I’m Ian Õg Murray,” Ian said mildly, and nodded at me.  “And that’s my auntie.   Oops.”  The first mule was nosing his way determinedly between us, causing us both to step off the path.

 “I’m Ian Murray,” Ian repeated, stepping back and bringing his rifle back into a relaxed-but-definitely-ready position across his chest.

 “And I,” said a deep voice from above, “am Colonel James Fraser, of Fraser’s Ridge, and that’s my wife.”  He moved into sight, broad-shouldered and tall against the light, with Tom behind him, sunlight glinting off his rifle.

     “Catch that mule, will ye, Ian?   This is my land.  And who,
may I ask, are you gentlemen?”

 The men jerked in surprise and whirled to look upward—though one cast an apprehensive glance over his shoulder, to keep an eye on the threat to the rear.

 “Er…we’re…um…”  The young man—he couldn’t be much more than twenty—exchanged a panicked look with his older companion.  “I am Lieutenant Felix Summers, sir.   Of—of His Majesty’s ship, Revenge.”

 Tom made a noise that might have been either menace or amusement.

 “Who’s your friend, then?” he asked, nodding at the older gentleman, who might have been anything from a town vagrant to a backwoods hunter, but who looked somewhat the worse for drink, his nose and cheeks webbed with broken capillaries.

 “I—believe his name is Voules, sir,” the lieutenant said.  “He is not my friend.” His face had gone from a shocked white to a prim pink.  “I hired him in Salisbury, to assist with—with my baggage.”

 “I see,” Jamie said politely.  “Are ye perhaps…lost, lieutenant?  I believe the nearest ocean is roughly three hundred miles behind you.”

 “I am on leave from my ship,” the young man said, regaining his dignity.   “I have come to visit…someone.”

 “No prize for guessing who,” Tom said to Jamie, and lowered his rifle.  “What d’ye want to do with ‘em, Jamie?”

 “My wife and I will take the lieutenant and his…man…down to the house for some refreshment,” Jamie said, bowing graciously to Summers.  “Would ye maybe help Ian with—” he nodded toward the chaos scattered among the rocks, “—and Ian, once ye’ve got things in hand, go up and bring Captain Cunningham down to join us, will ye?”

 Summers picked up the subtle difference between “invite” and “bring” just as well as Ian did, and stiffened, but he had little choice.  He did have a pistol and an officer’s dirk in his belt, but I could see that the former wasn’t primed and therefore likely wasn’t loaded, either, and I doubted that he’d ever drawn his dirk with any motive beyond polishing it.  Jamie didn’t even glance at the weapons, let alone ask for their surrender.

 “I thank you, sir,” Summers said, turned on his heel, and shying only slightly as he passed me and my scythe, started down the trail, back stiff.

Excerpt "Claire breaks her metatarsal"

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I was listening with half an ear to the singing in the kitchen as I pounded and ground sage, comfrey, and goldenseal into an oily dust in the surgery.  It was late afternoon and while the sun fell warm across the floorboards, the shadows held a chill.

 Lieutenant Bembridge was teaching Fanny the words to “Green Grow the Rushes, O”.   He had a true, clear tenor that made Bluebell yodel when he hit a high note, but I enjoyed it.  It reminded me of working in the canteen at Pembroke Hospital, rolling bandages and making up surgical kits with the other student nurses, hearing singing coming in with the yellow fog through the narrow open slit at the top of a window.  There was a courtyard down below, and the ambulatory patients would sit there in fine—or even not-so-fine—weather, smoking, talking and singing to pass the time.

 “Two, two, the lily-white boys,
 Clothed all in green, O—
 One is one and all alone
 And evermore shall be so!”

 In 1940, the fog-muffled song was often interrupted by coughing and hoarse curses, but someone could always carry it through to the end.

 Lieutenants Bembridge and Esterhazy were eighteen and nineteen, respectively, lusty and in good health, and with Bluebell’s joyous assistance, were making so much noise that I didn’t hear either the front door opening nor footsteps in the hallway, and was so startled to look up from my mortar and see Jamie in the doorway that I dropped the heavy stone pestle straight down onto my sandaled foot.

 “Ouch! Ow! Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  I hopped out from behind the table, and Jamie caught me by one arm.

 “Are ye all right, Sassenach?”

 “Do I sound like I’m all right?  I’ve broken a metatarsal.”

 “I’ll buy ye a new one next time I go into Salisbury,” he assured me, letting go of my elbow.  “Meanwhile, I’ve got everything on the list, except … Why are there Englishmen singing in my kitchen?”

 “Oh.  Ah.  Well…”  It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about what his response to two of His Majesty’s naval officers lending a hand to the domestic economy might be, but I’d thought I’d have time to explain before he actually encountered them.   I rested my bottom against the edge of the table, lifting my wounded foot off the floor.

 “They’re two young lieutenants who used to sail with Captain Cunningham.  They were cast ashore or marooned or something—anyway, they lost their ship and it’s so late in the year that they can’t find a ship to join until March or April, so they came to the Ridge to stay with the Captain.   Elspeth Cunningham lent them to me for chores, in payment for my reducing her dislocated shoulder.”

 “Elspeth, is it?”  Luckily, he seemed amused, rather than annoyed.   “Do we feed them?”

 “Well, I’ve been giving them lunch and a light supper.   But they’ve been going back up to the Captain’s cabin in the evening, and coming down mid-morning.  They’ve repaired the stable door,” I offered, in extenuation, “dug over my garden, chopped two cords of wood, carried all the stones you and Roger dug out of the upper field down to the springhouse, and—”

 He made a slight gesture indicating that he accepted my decision, and now would like to change the subject.  Which he did by kissing me and asking what was for supper.  He smelled of road dust, ale, and faintly of cinnamon.

 “I believe Fanny and Lieutenant Bembridge are making burgoo.  It has pork, venison and squirrel in it—apparently you must have at least three different meats for a proper burgoo—but I have no idea what else is in it.   It smells all right, though.”

 Jamie’s stomach rumbled.

 “Aye, it does,” he said thoughtfully.  “And what does Frances make o’ them?”

 “I think she’s somewhat smitten,” I said, lowering my voice and glancing toward the hall.  "Cyrus came to call yesterday while she was serving the lieutenants luncheon, and she asked him to stay, but he just drew himself up to about seven feet, glared at them, said something rude in Gaelic—I don’t think she understood it, but she wouldn’t need to—and left.  Fanny went pink in the face—with indignation—and gave them the dried-apple-and-raisin pie she’d meant for Cyrus.”

 “[Better a lobster than no husband,” – Gaelic] Jamie said, with a  philosophical shrug.  Better a lobster than no husband.

 “You don’t actually think that, do you?” I asked, curious.

 “In the case of most lassies, yes,” he said.  “But I want someone better for Frances, and I dinna think a British sailor will do.  Ye say they’re leaving in the spring, though?”

 “So I understand.  Oo!”  I tenderly massaged the throbbing bruise on my foot.  The pestle had struck smack at the base of my big toe and while the original pain had receded a bit, trying to put my weight on the foot and/or bend it resulted in a sensation like hot barbed wire being pulled between my toes.

 “Sit yourself down, a nighean,” he said, and pushed the big padded chair that Brianna had dubbed the Kibitzer’s Chair toward me.  “I brought a few bottles of good wine from Salisbury; I expect one o’ those would make your foot feel better.”

 It did.  It made Jamie feel better, too.  I could see that he’d come home carrying something, and I felt a small knot below my own heart.  He’d tell me when he was ready.

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.  Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.]

Excerpt "Roger at War"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #forMemorialDay  #forthemilitarychaplains  #whotendtheirflocks  #inpeaceandatwar  #thisonesnotforthesqueamish

 It wasn’t God he found with him, but the next best thing.  The memory of Major Gareth Everett, one of his father’s friends, an ex-military chaplain.  Everett was a tall, long-faced man who wore his graying hair parted down the middle in a way that made him look like an old hound dog, but he’d had a black sense of humor and he’d treated Roger, thirteen years old, as a man.

 “Did you ever kill anyone?” he’d asked the Major when they were sat around the table after dinner one night, the old men telling stories of the War.

 “Yes,” the Major replied without hesitation.  “I’d be no use to my men, dead.”

 “What did you do for them?” Roger had asked, curious.  “I mean—what does a chaplain do, in a battle?”

 Major Everett and the Reverend had exchanged a brief look, but the Reverend nodded and Everett leaned forward, arms folded on the table in front of him.  Roger saw the tattoo on his wrist, a bird of some kind, wings spread over a scroll with something written on it in Latin.

 “Be with them,” the Major said quietly, but his eyes held Roger’s, deeply serious.  “Reassure them.  Tell them God is with them.  That I’m with them.  That they aren’t alone.”

 “Help them when you can,” his father had said, softly, eyes on the worn gray oilcloth that covered the table.  “Hold their hands and pray, when you can’t.”

 He saw—actually saw—the blast of a cannon.  A brilliant red flowering spark the size of his head that blinked in the fog with a firework’s BOOM! and then vanished.  The fog blew back from the blast and he saw everything clearly for a second, no more—the black hulk of the gun, round mouth gaping, smoke thicker than the fog rolling over it, falling to the ground like water, steam rising from the hot metal to join the roiling fog, the artillerymen swarming over the gun, frenzied blue ants, swallowed up the next instant in swirling white.

 And then the world around him went mad.    The shouts of the officers had come with the cannon’s blast; he only knew it because he’d been standing close enough to the General to see his mouth open.  But now a general roar went up from the charging men in his column, running hell-bent for the dim shape of the redoubt before him. 

 The sword was in his hand, and he was running, yelling, wordless things.

 Torches glowed faintly in the fog—soldiers trying to re-fire the abatis, he thought dimly. There was a high-pitched yodeling of some sort that might be the general, but might not.

 The cannon—how many? He couldn’t tell, but more than two; the firing kept up at a tremendous rate, the crash of it shaking his bones every half-minute or so.

 He made himself stop, bent over, hands on his knees, gasping.  He thought he heard musket-fire, muffled, rhythmic crashes between the cannon blasts.  The British army’s disciplined volleys.



 “Fall back!”   An officer’s shouts rang out sudden in the heartbeat of silence between one crash and the next.

 _You’re not a soldier.  If you get killed…nobody will be here to help them. Fall back, idiot._
 He’d been at the back of the rank.  But now he was surrounded by men, surging together, pushing, running in all directions.  Orders were being barked, and he thought some of the men were struggling to obey; he heard random shouts, saw a black boy who couldn’t be more than twelve struggling grimly to load a musket taller than he was.   He wore a dark blue uniform, and a bright yellow kerchief showed when the fog parted for an instant.

 He tripped over someone lying on the ground and landed on his knees, brackish water seeping through his breeches.   He’d landed with his hands on the fallen man, and the sudden warmth on his cold fingers was a shock that brought him back to himself.

 The man moaned and Roger jerked his hands away, then recovered himself and groped for the man’s hand.  It was gone, and his own hand was filled with a gush of hot blood that reeked like a slaughterhouse.

 “Jesus,” he said, and wiping  his hand on his breeches, grappled with the other in his bag, he had cloths…he yanked out something white and tried to tie it round…he felt frantically for a wrist, but that was gone, too.    He got a fragment of sleeve and felt his way up it as fast as he could, but he reached the still solid upper arm a moment after the man died—he could feel the sudden limpness of the body under his hand.

 He was still kneeling there with the unused cloth in his hand when someone tripped over him and fell headlong with a tremendous splash.   Roger got up onto his feet and duck-walked to the fallen man.

 “Are you all right?” he shouted, bending forward.   Something whistled over his head and he threw himself flat on top of the man.

 “Jesus Christ!” the man exclaimed, punching wildly at Roger.  “Get the devil off me, you bugger!”

 They wrestled in the mud and water for a moment, each trying to use the other for leverage to rise, and the cannon kept on firing.  Roger pushed the man away and managed to roll up onto his knees in the mud.  Cries for help were coming from behind him, and he turned in that direction.

 The fog was almost gone, driven off by explosions, but the gun-smoke drifted white and low across the uneven ground, showing him brief flashes of color and movement as it shredded.

 “Help, help me!”

He saw the man then, on hands and knees, dragging one leg, and splashed through the puddles to reach him.   Not much blood, but the leg was clearly wounded; he got a shoulder under the man’s arm and got him on his feet, hustled him as fast as possible away from the redoubt, out of range…

The air shattered again and the earth seemed to tilt under him, he was lying on the ground with the man he’d been helping on top of him, the man’s jaw knocked away and hot blood and chunks of teeth soaking into his chest.  Panicked, he struggled out from under the twitching body—Oh, God, oh, God, he was still alive—and then he was kneeling by the man, slipping in the mud, catching himself with a hand on the chest where he could feel the heart beating in time with the blood spurting, Oh, Jesus, help me!

He groped for words, frantic.  It was all gone.   All the comforting words he’d gleaned, all his stock in trade…

“You’re not alone,” he panted, pressing hard on the heaving chest, as though he could anchor the man to the earth he was dissolving into.   “I’m here.   I won’t leave you.  It’s gonna be all right.   You’re gonna be all right.”

Excerpt "William and Amaranthus"

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 Still, he took his hand off the latch and turned back.  He’d wait for a quarter of an hour, he decided.  If anything terrible was going to happen, it would likely be quick.  He couldn’t linger in the tiny front garden, let alone skulk about beneath the windows.  He skirted the yard and went down the side of the house, toward the back.

 The back garden was sizable, with a vegetable-patch, dug over for the winter, but still sporting a fringe of cabbages.  A small cook-shed stood at the end of the garden, and a pruned-back grape arbor at one side, with a bench inside it.  The bench was occupied by Amaranthus, who held little Trevor against her shoulder, patting his back in a business-like way.

 “Oh, hullo,” she said, spotting William.  “Where’s your friend?”

 “Inside,” he said.  “Talking to Lord John.  I thought I’d just wait for him—but I don’t wish to disturb you.”  He made to turn away, but she stopped him, raising her hand for a moment before resuming her patting.

 “Sit down,” she said, eyeing him with interest.  “So you’re the famous William.  Or ought I to call you Ellesmere?”

 “Indeed.   And no, you oughtn’t.”  He sat down cautiously beside her.  “How’s the little fellow?”

 “Extremely full,” she said, with a small grimace.  “Any minute—whoops, there he goes.”   Trevor had emitted a loud belch, this accompanied by a spew of watery milk  that ran over his mother’s shoulder.  Apparently such explosions were common; William saw that she had placed a napkin over her banyan to receive it, though the cloth seemed inadequate to the volume of Trevor’s production.

    “Hand me that, will you?” Amaranthus shifted the child expertly from one shoulder to the other and nodded toward another wadded cloth that lay on the ground near her feet.  William picked it up gingerly, but it proved to be clean—for the moment.

 “Hasn’t he got a nurse?” he asked, handing the cloth over.

 “He did have,” Amaranthus said, frowning slightly as she mopped the child’s face.  “I sacked her.”

 “Drunkenness?” he asked, recalling what Lord John had said about the cook. 

 “Among other things.  Drunk on occasion—too many of them--and dirty in her ways.”

 “Dirty as in filth, or…er…lacking fastidiousness in her relations with the opposite sex?”

 She laughed, despite the subject.

 “Both.  Did I not already know you to be Lord John’s son, that question would have made it clear.  Or, rather,” she amended, gathering the banyan more closely around her, “the phrasing of it, rather than the question itself.  All of the Greys—all those I’ve met so far—talk like that.”

 “I’m his lordship’s stepson,” he replied equably.  “Any resemblance of speech must therefore be a matter of exposure, rather than inheritance.”

 She made a small interested noise and looked at him, one fair brow raised.  Her eyes were that changeable color between gray and blue, he saw.  Just now, they matched the gray doves embroidered on her yellow banyan.

 “That’s possible,” she said.  “My father says that a kind of finch learns its songs from its parents; if you take an egg from one nest and put it into another some miles away, the nestling will learn the songs of the new parents, instead of the ones who laid the egg.”

 Courteously repressing the desire to ask why anyone should be concerned with finches in any way, he merely nodded.

 “Are you not cold, madam?” he asked.  They were sitting in the sun, and the wooden bench was warm under his legs, but the breeze playing on the back of his neck was chilly, and he knew she wasn’t wearing anything but a shift under her banyan.   The thought brought back a vivid recollection of his first sight of her, milky bosom and prominent nipples on display, and he looked away, trying to think instantly of something else.

 “What is your father’s profession?” he asked at random.

 “He’s a naturalist—when he can afford to be,” she replied.  “And no, I’m not cold.  It’s always much too hot in the house, and I don’t think the smoke from the hearth is good for Trevor; it makes him cough.”

 “Perhaps the chimney isn’t drawing properly.  You said, ‘when he can afford to be.’  What does your father do when he cannot afford to pursue his…er…particular interests?”

 “He’s a bookseller,” she said, with a slight tone of defiance.  “In [New York?  New Jersey?  Philadelphia?]  “That’s where I met Benjamin,” she added, with a slight catch in her voice.  “In my father’s shop.”   She turned her head slightly, watching to see what he made of this.  Would he disapprove of the connection, knowing her now for a tradesman’s daughter? _Not likely_, he thought wryly.  _Under the circumstances_.

 “You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your husband, madam,” he said.  He wondered what she knew—had been told, rather—about Benjamin’s death, but it seemed indelicate to ask.   And he’d best find out just what Papa and Uncle Hal knew about it, before he went trampling into unknown territory.

 “Thank you.”  She looked away, her eyes lowered, but he saw her mouth—rather a nice mouth—compress in a way suggesting that her teeth were clenched.

 “Bloody Continentals!” she said, with sudden violence.  She lifted her head, and he saw that, far from being filled with tears, her eyes were sparking with rage.  “Damn them and their nitwit philosophy!  Of all the obstinate, muddle-headed, treasonous twaddle…I—“ She broke off suddenly, perceiving his startlement.

 “I beg your pardon, my lord,” she said stiffly.  “I…was overcome by my emotions.”

 “Very…suitable,” he said awkwardly.  “I mean—quite understandable, given the…um…circumstances.”  He glanced sideways at the house, but there was no sound of doors opening or voices raised in farewell.  “Do call me William, though—we are cousins, are we not?”

 She smiled fully at that.  She had a lovely smile.

 “So we are.   You must call me Cousin Amaranthus, then—it’s a plant,” she added, with the slightly resigned air of one frequently obliged to make this explanation. “_Amaranthus palmeri_.  Of the family Amaranthaceae.  Commonly known as pigweed.”

Excerpt "Jane"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.]

“Historical friction,” she said.  “There are all kinds of things—ideas, machines, tools, whatever—that were—are, I mean—discovered more than once.  Mama said the hypodermic needle was independently invented by at least three different people, all around the same time, in different countries.  But other things are invented or discovered and they just…sit.  No one uses them.  Or they’re lost, and then found again.  For years—centuries, sometimes—until something happens, and suddenly it’s the right time, and whatever it is comes suddenly into its own, and spreads, and it’s common knowledge.

“Besides,” she added practically, nudging the bag with her foot, what harm could it do to loose a bastardized version of The Cat in the Hat on the eighteenth century?”

He laughed in spite of his uneasiness. 

“Nobody would print that one.  A story showing children being deliberately disobedient to their mother?  And not suffering Dire Consequences for doing it?”

“Like I said.   Not the right time for a book like that,” she said.   “It wouldn’t…stick.” She’d got over the emotional breakdown altogether now – or at least that’s what she looked like.  Long red hair spilling loose down her back, face animated but not troubled, her eyes on the road and the horses’ bobbing heads.

“And then I have Jane,” she said, nodding at the bag and lowering her voice. “Speaking of dire consequences, poor girl.”  

“Ja—oh, Fanny’s sister?”   He remembered the drawing, a hasty pencil sketch on rough paper.  

 “I  promised Fanny that I’d paint Jane,” Bree said, and frowned a little.  “Make her more permanent.   I couldn’t persuade Fanny to let me take her drawing, but she did let me copy it, so I’d have something to work from.”

“Poor girl.  Girls, I should say.”  Claire had told Brianna, after the uproar over Fanny’s getting her monthly, what had happened to Jane, and Bree had told him.

“Yes.  And poor Willie, too.  I don’t know if he was in love with Jane, or just felt responsible for her, but Mama said he showed up at her funeral, looking awful, with that huge horse.  He gave Da the horse, for Fanny—he’d already given Fanny to him, to take care of—and then he just…left.   They haven’t heard anything about him since.”

Roger nodded, but there wasn’t much to say.  He’d met William, ninth Earl of Ellesmere, once, several years before, for roughly three minutes, on a quay in Wilmington.   A teenager then, tall and thin as a rail—and with a striking resemblance to Bree, though he was dark-haired--but with a lot more confidence and bearing than he’d have expected from someone that age.  He supposed that was one of the perquisites of being born (at least theoretically) to the hereditary aristocracy.  You really did think the world—or a good part of it—belonged to you.

“Do you know where she was buried?  Jane?” he asked, but she shook her head.

“In a private cemetery outside the city, is all.  Why?”

He lifted one shoulder, briefly.

“I thought I’d maybe pay my respects.  So I could tell Fanny I’d gone and said a prayer for her sister.”

She glanced at him, soft-eyed.

“That’s a really good thought.  I tell you what; I’ll ask Lord John where it is—Mama said he arranged for Jane to be buried, so he’ll know where.   Then you and I can go together.  Do you think Fanny would like it if I made a sketch of the grave?  Or would that be too—upsetting?”

“I think she’d like it.”   He touched her shoulder, then smoothed the hair back from her face and bound it with his handkerchief.  “You wouldn’t have anything edible in that bag, would you?”

Excerpt "Jamie's father" 

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 “Here,” Jamie said, turning away from the creek and pushing aside the branches of a red oak sapling.  Roger followed him up a small slope and onto a rocky shelf, where two or three more enterprising saplings had established themselves in crevices.   There was room enough to sit comfortably at the edge of the shelf, from whence Roger found that they could see the opposite bank and the tiny spring-house, and also a good bit of the trail leading up from the house-site.

 “We’ll see anyone coming,” Jamie said, settling himself cross-legged, with his back against one of the saplings.  “So, then. Ye’ve a thing or two to tell me.”

 “So, then.”  Roger sat down in a patch of shade, took off his shoes and stockings, and let his legs dangle in the cool draft at the edge of the shelf, in hopes that it would slow his heart.  There was no way to begin, except to start.

 “As I said, I went to Lallybroch in search of Jem—and of course he wasn’t there.  But Brian—your father—“

 “I ken his name,” Jamie said dryly.

 “Ever call him by it?”  Roger said, on impulse.

 “No,” Jamie said, surprised.   “Do men call their fathers by their Christian names in your time?”

 “No.”  Roger made a brief dismissive motion.  “It’s just—I shouldn’t have said that, it’s part of my story, not yours.”

 Jamie glanced at the sun, coming slowly down the sky, but still well above the mountain.

 “It’s a good while ‘til supper,” he said. “We’ve likely time for both.”

 “It’s a tale for another time,” Roger said, shrugging.  “But…the meat of it is that while I came in search of Jem, I found—well, my father, instead.   His name was Jeremiah, too—folk called him Jerry.”

 Jamie said something in Gaelic and crossed himself.

 “Aye,” Roger said briefly.  “As I said—another time.  The thing was—when I found him, he was only twenty-two.  I was the age I am now; I could have been his father, just.  So I called him Jerry; thought of him that way.  At the same time, I kent he was my…well. I couldn’t tell him who I was; there wasn’t time.”  He felt his throat grow tight again, and cleared it, with an effort.

 “Well, so.   It was before, that I met your father at Lallybroch.  I nearly fell over with the shock when he opened the door and told me his name.”  He smiled a little at the memory, rueful.  “He was about my own age, maybe a few years older. We met…as men.  Mr. MacKenzie.  Mr. Fraser.”

 Jamie gave a brief nod, his eyes curious.

 “And then your sister came in, and they made me welcome, fed me.  I told your father—well, not the whole of it, obviously—but that I was looking for my wee lad, who’d been kidnapped.”

 Brian had given Roger a bed, then taken him next morning to all the crofts nearby, asking after Jem and Rob Cameron, without result.  But the next day, he’d suggested riding all the way to Fort William, to make inquiries at the army garrison.

 Roger’s eyes were fixed on a patch of moss near his knee; it grew in rounded green clumps over the rocks, looking like the heads of young broccoli.  He could feel Jamie listening.  His father-in-law didn’t move at all, but Roger felt the slight tension in him at mention of Fort William. _ Or maybe it’s my own _…  He thrust his fingers into the cool, wet moss; to anchor himself, maybe.

 “The commander was an officer named Buncombe.  Your father called him, ‘a decent fellow for a Sassenach’—and he was.  Brian had brought two bottles of whisky—good stuff,” he added, glancing at Jamie, and saw the flicker of a returned smile at that.  “We drank with Buncombe, and he promised to have his soldiers make inquiries.  That made me feel…hopeful.  As though I might really have some chance of finding Jem.”

 He hesitated for a moment, trying to think how to say what he wanted to, but after all, Jamie _had _ known Brian himself.

 “It wasn’t so much Buncombe’s courtesy.  It was Brian Dhu,” he said, looking straight at Jamie.  “He was…kind, very kind, but it was more than that.”  He had a vivid memory of it, of Brian, riding in front of him up a hill, bonnet and broad shoulders dark with rain, his back straight and sure.  “You felt---_I _ felt—as though…if this man was on my side, then things would be all right.”

 “Everyone felt that about him,” Jamie said softly, looking down.

 Roger nodded, silent.  Jamie’s auburn head was bent, his gaze fixed on his knees—but Roger saw that head turn a fraction of an inch, and tilt as though in answer to a touch, and a tiny ripple of something between awe and simple acknowledgement stirred the hairs on his own scalp. 

 _There it is _, he thought, at once surprised and not surprised at all.  He’d seen it—or rather, felt it—before, but it had taken several repetitions before he’d realized fully what it was.  The summoning of the dead, when those who loved them spoke of them.  He could feel Brian Dhu, here beside this mountain creek, as surely as he had felt him that dreich day in the Highlands.  

Excerpt "Oggy likes to kill his food"

#DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #Book9   #Itsgoingverywell  #yesmyshoulderisbetter #thanksforasking #NOitsnotdoneyet  #Illtellyouwhenitis

 Supper was simple, because there had been no one to stay at home and cook it during the day.   I’d made a huge kettle of milky corn chowder in the morning, with onions, bacon and sliced potatoes to fill it out, and after the usual obsessive checking of hearth and coals, had covered the cauldron and left it to simmer, along with a prayer that the house would not burn down in our absence.    There was bread from yesterday, and four cold apple pies for pudding, with a little cheese.

 “’Snot a pudding,” Mandy had said, frowning when she heard me say that.  “Issa pie!”

 “True, darling,” I said.  “It’s just an English manner of speech, to call all desserts ‘pudding’.”


 “Because the English dinna ken any better,” Jamie told her.

 “Says the Scot who has ‘creamed crud’ for his dessert,” I replied, making Jem and Mandy roll on the floor with laughter, repeating “creamed crud” to each other whenever they paused for breath.

 Germain, who had been eating creamed curd for pudding since he was born, shook his head at them and sighed in a worldly fashion, glancing at Fanny to share his condescension.   Fanny, who had likely not encountered anything beyond pie in the dessert line, looked confused.

 “Regardless,” I said, ladling chowder into bowls.    “Get the bread, will you please, Jem?   Regardless,” I repeated, “it’s good to be able to sit down to supper, isn’t it?  It was rather a long day,” I added, smiling at Roger and then at Rachel.

 “Thee was wonderful, Roger,” Rachel said, smiling at him.  “I hadn’t heard of line-singing before.  Had thee, Ian?”

 “Oh, aye.  There was a wee Presbyterian kirk on Skye that I stopped by wi’ my Da once, when I went with him to buy a sheep.  There’s nothing else to do on Skye on Sunday,” he explained.

 “It seems familiar,” I remarked, shaking a large pat of cold butter out of its mold.  “That kind of singing, I mean, not Skye.  But I don’t know why it should.”

 Roger smiled faintly.  He couldn’t talk above a whisper, but happiness glowed in his eyes.

 “African slaves,” he said, barely audible.  “They do it.  Call and response, it’s called sometimes.  Did ye maybe…hear them at River Run?”

 “Oh.   Yes, perhaps,” I said, a little dubiously.  “But it seems more…recent?”   A lift of one dark eyebrow indicated that he took my meaning as to “recent.”

 “Aye.”  He took up his beer and took a deep swallow.  “Aye.  Black singers, then others…took it up.  It’s one of –” he glanced at Fanny and then Rachel.   “One of the roots you see, in, um, more modern music.”

 Rock ‘n roll, I supposed he meant, or possibly rhythm and blues—I was no kind of a music scholar.

 “Speaking of music, Rachel, you have a beautiful voice,” Bree said, leaning across the table to wave a bit of bread under Oggy’s nose.

 “I thank thee, Brianna,” Rachel said, and laughed.  “So does the dog.”  She took the bread and let Oggy squash it in his fist, he preferring to kill his food before eating it. “I was pleased that so many people chose to share our meeting—though I suppose it was mostly curiosity.  Now that they know the terrible truth about Friends, they likely won’t come again.”

 “What’s the terrible truth about Friends, Auntie Rachel?”  Germain asked, fascinated.

 “That we’re boring,” Rachel told him.  “Did thee not notice?”

Excerpt  "The Virtue of Bacon"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #thevirtuesofbacon  #nodefinitelynotdoneyet   #goingwellthough   #thisonehasaspoiler  #ifyouhaventereadECHO   #YouHaveBeenWarned  #DontPeek

 A small cough from behind me distracted me from the mental list of synonyms for “bloody Scot!” I was compiling.  I turned round to find Fanny standing there, her apron bulging with dirt-covered turnips and her sweet face fixed in a troubled frown, this directed at Jamie, who was vanishing into the trees by the creek.

 “What has Will-iam done, Mrs. Fraser?” she asked, glancing up at me from under her cap.  I smiled, in spite of the recent upheaval.   Her speech was very fluent now, save when she was upset, but she often still had that slight hesitation between the syllables of William’s name.

 “William hasn’t done anything amiss,” I assured her.  “Not that I know of.   We haven’t seen him since…er…”  I broke off an instant too late.

 “Jane’s funeral,” she said soberly, and looked down into the purple and white mass of turnips.  “I thought….maybe Mr. Fraser had had a letter.  From William.  Or maybe about him,” she added, the frown returning.  She nodded toward the trees. “He’s angry.”

 “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh.   “Which means stubborn.  Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.   But don’t worry; it really isn’t anything to do with William.  Here, let’s put the turnips in the tub there and cover them with water.  That will keep the tops from wilting.  Amy’s making bashed neeps for supper, but I want to cook the tops with bacon grease and serve them alongside.  If anything will make Highlanders eat a leafy green vegetable, bacon ought to do it.” 

She nodded as though this made sense and let down her apron slowly, so the turnips rolled out into the tub in a tumbling cascade, dark green tops waving like pom-poms.

 “You probably shouldn’t have told him.”  Fanny spoke with an almost clinical detachment.

 “Told who what?” I said, picking up a water bucket and sloshing it over the muddy turnips.  “Get another bucket, will you?”

 She did, heaved the water into the tub, then set down the bucket, looked up at me and said seriously, “I know what ‘swived’ means.” 

 I felt as though she’d just kicked me sharply in the shin. 

 “Do you, indeed?” I managed, picking up my working knife.  “I, um…suppose you would.”   She’d spent half her short life in a brothel in a Philadelphia; she probably knew a lot of other words not in the vocabulary of the average twelve-year old.

 “It’s too bad,” she said, turning to fetch another bucket; the small boys had filled all of them this morning; there were six left.  “I like his lordship a lot.  He wath—_was_ so good to me and—and Jane.  I like Mr. Fraser too,” she added, though with a certain reserve.

 “I’m sure he appreciates your good opinion,” I said gravely, wondering what the hell?  “And yes, his lordship is a very good man.  He’s always been a good friend to us.”  I put a bit of emphasis on the “us,” and saw that register.

 “Oh.” A small frown disturbed the perfect skin of her forehead.  “I thup-suppose that makes it worse.   That you went to bed with him,” she explained, lest I have missed her point.  “Men don’t like to share a woman.   Unless it’s an ambsace.”

 “An ambsace?”  I was beginning to wonder how I might extricate myself from this conversation with any sort of dignity.  I was also beginning to feel rather alarmed.  

 “That’s just what Madge called it.  When two men want to do things to a girl at the same time.  It costs more than it would to have two girls, because they often damage her.  Mostly just bruises,” she added fairly.  “But still.”

Excerpt "Moran Taing"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #noitdoesnthaveasadending  #dinnafash  #noitisntfinished  #soon  #inthemeantime  #abriefGaeliclesson

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon]

 Jamie woke the next morning to an empty bed, sighed, stretched and rolled out of it.  He’d dreamed, rather pleasantly, about Achilles’s ships, and would have liked to tell Claire about it.   He shook off the remnants of sleep and went to wash, making a mental note of some of the things he’d dreamt, so as not to forget them.   With luck, she’d be home before supper.

 “Mr. Fraser?”  A delicate rap on the door, Frances’s voice.  “Your daughter says breakfast is ready.”

 “Aye?”  He wasn’t smelling anything of a savory nature, but “ready” was a relative term.  “I’m coming, lass.  Taing.”

 “Tang?” she said, sounding startled.  He smiled, pulled a clean shirt over his head and opened the door.  She was standing there like a field daisy, delicate but upright on her stem, and he bowed to her.

 “Taing,” he said, pronouncing it as carefully as he could.  “It means ‘thanks’ in the Gaelic.”

 “Are you sure?” she said, frowning slightly.

 “I am,” he assured her.  “Moran taing means ‘thank you very much,’ should ye want something stronger.”

 A faint flush rose in her cheeks.

 “I’m sorry—I didn’t really mean are you th-sure.  Of course you are.  It’s only that Germain told me ‘thank you’ is ‘tabag leet’.  Is that wrong?  He might have been practicing on me, but I didn’t think so.”

 “Tapadh leat,” he said, restraining the urge to laugh.  “No, that’s right; it’s only that Moran taing is…casual, ye might say.  The other’s when ye want to be formal.  If someone’s saved your life or paid your debts, say, ye’d say “Tapadh leat,” where if they passed ye the bread at table, ye’d say ‘Taing,’ aye?”

 “Aye,” she said automatically, and flushed deeper when he smiled.  She smiled back, though, and he followed her down the stairs, thinking how oddly engaging she was; she was reticent, but not shy at all.  He supposed one couldn’t be shy, if raised with the expectation of becoming a whore.

Excerpt "Lighting in Art"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #BookNINE   #noitsnotfinished #noIdontknowwhen  #whenitsdoneOK   #forCarolSuzanne  #distraction

 Bree drew a deep breath, savoring the momentary solitude.  There was a strong touch of fall in the air, though the sun was bright through the window, and a single late bumblebee hummed slowly in, circled the disappointing wax flowers and bumbled out again.

 It would be winter soon, in the mountains.   She felt a pang of longing for the high rocks and the clean scent of balsam fir, snow and mud, the close warm smell of sheltered animals.  Much more, for her parents, for the sense of her family all about her.  Moved by impulse, she turned the page of her sketchbook and tried to capture a glimpse of her father’s face—just a line or two in profile, the straight long nose and the strong brow.  And the small curved line that suggested his smile, hidden in the corner of his mouth.

 That was enough for now.  With the comforting sense of his presence near her, she opened the box where she kept the small lead tubes and the little pots of hand-ground pigment, and made up her simple palette.   White, a touch of lamp black, and a dab of rose madder.   A moment’s hesitation, and she added a thin line of lemon yellow, and a spot of cobalt.

 With the color of shadows in her mind, she went across to the small collection of canvases leaning against the wall, and uncovering the unfinished portrait of [   ], set it on the table, where it would catch the morning light.

 “That’s the trouble,” she murmured.  “Maybe…”   The light.   She’d done it with an imagined light source, falling from the right, so as to throw the delicate jawline into relief.  But what she hadn’t thought to imagine was what kind of light it was.  The shadows cast by a morning light sometimes had a faint green tinge, while those of mid-day were dusky, a slight browning of the natural skin tones, and evening shadows were blue and gray and sometimes a deep lavender.   But what time of day suited the mysterious [   ]?

 Her ruminations were interrupted by the sound of Angelina’s laughter and footsteps in the hallway.  A man’s voice, amused—Mr. Brumby, on his way out.

 “Ah, Mrs. MacKenzie.   A very good morning to you, ma’am.”  Alfred Brumby paused in the doorway, smiling in at her.  Angelina clung to his arm, beaming up at him and shedding white powder on the sleeve of his bottle-green suit, but he didn’t appear to notice.  “And how is the work proceeding, might I ask?”

 He was courteous enough to make it sound as though he really was asking permission to inquire, rather than demanding a progress report.

 “Very well, sir,” Bree said, and stepped back, gesturing, so he could come in and see the head sketches that she’d done so far, arranged in fans on the table: Angelina’s complete head and neck from multiple angles,  close view of hairline, side and front, assorted small details of ringlets, waves and brilliants.

 “Beautiful, beautiful!” he exclaimed.  He bent over them, taking a quizzing glass from his pocket and using it to examine the drawings.  “She’s captured you exactly, my dear—a thing I shouldn’t have thought possible without the use of leg-irons, I confess.”

Excerpt "the unknowns of time travel" new

#DailyLines  #Book9   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #NOitsnotdoneyet  #Soon  #verysoon  #relativelyspeaking  #IlltellyouwhenitsdoneOK ?  #NotReallyaSpoiler   #Butifyoudontwanttoknowanything  #dontreadit

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.]


“Time Traveler’s Manual?” Roger asked, looking at her sideways. Brianna was flushed and had a deep line showing between her brows, neither of which detracted from her appeal.

She nodded, still frowning at the page.

“I had a thought and wanted to put it down before I lost it, but—”

“You don’t want to risk anybody stumbling over it and reading it,” he finished for her. 

“Yep. But it still needs to be something the kids—or Jemmy, at least—can read, if necessary.”

“So tell me your valuable thought,” he suggested, and sat down, very slowly. He’d been in the saddle from dawn to dusk for the last three days, and ached from neck to knees.

“So you don’t know anything about Pig Latin,” she said, eyeing him skeptically. “How are you with the principle of the conservation of mass?”

He closed his eyes, and mimed writing on a blackboard.

“Matter is neither created nor destroyed,” he said, and opened his eyes. “That it?”

“Well done.” She patted his hand, then noticed its state: grimy and curled into a half-fist, his fingers stiff from gripping the reins. She pulled it into her lap, unfolded the fingers and began to massage them.

“The whole formal thing says, ‘The law of conservation of mass states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system's mass cannot change, so quantity can neither be added nor removed.’”

Roger’s eyes were half-closed in a mingling of tiredness and ecstasy.

“God, that feels good.”

“Good. So what I’m thinking is this: time travelers definitely have mass, right? So if they’re moving from one time to another, does that mean the system is momentarily unbalanced in terms of mass? I mean, does 1779 have 425 more pounds of mass in it than it ought to have—and conversely, 1983 has 425 pounds too little?”

“Is that how much we weigh, all together?” Roger opened his eyes. “I’ve often thought the kids each weighed that much, all by themselves.”

“I’m sure they do,” she said, smiling, but unwilling to lose her train of thought. “And of course I’m making the assumption that the dimension of time is part of the definition of ‘system.’ Here, give me the other one.”

“It’s filthy, too.” It was, but she merely pulled a handkerchief from her bosom and wiped the mixture of grease and dirt from his fingers. “Why are your fingers so greasy?”

“If you’re sending something like a rifle across an ocean, you pack it in grease to keep the salt air and water from eroding it.”

“Blessed Michael defend us,” she said, and despite the fact that she obviously meant it, he laughed at her Bostonian Gaelic accent.

“It’s all right,” he assured her, swallowing a yawn. “They’re safe. Go on with the conservation of mass; I’m fascinated.” 

“Sure you are.” Her long, strong fingers probed and rubbed, pulling his joints and avoiding—for the most part—his blisters. “So—you remember Geillis’s grimoire, right? And the record she kept of bodies that were found in or near stone circles?”

That woke him up.

“I do.”

“Well. If a you move a chunk of mass into a different time period, do you maybe have to balance that by removing a different chunk?”

He stared at her, and she looked back, still holding his hand, but no longer massaging it. Her eyes were steady, expectant.

“You’re saying that if someone comes through a—a portal—someone else from that time has to die, to keep the balance right?”

“Not exactly.” She resumed her massage, slower now. “Because even if they die, their mass is still there. I’m sort of thinking that maybe that’s what keeps them from passing through, though; they’re headed for a time that…that doesn’t have room for them, in terms of mass?”

“And…they can’t go through and that kills them?” There seemed something illogical in this, but his brain was in no condition to say what.

“Not that, exactly, either.” Brianna lifted her head, listening, but whatever she’d heard, the sound wasn’t repeated, and she went on, bending her head to peer into his palm. “Man, you have _huge_ blisters. But think about it; most of the bodies in Geillis’s news clippings were unidentified, and mostly wearing odd clothes.”

 He stared at her for a moment, then took his hand from hers and flexed it gingerly.

 “So you think they came from somewhere—sometime--else, and got through the stones—but then died?”

 “Or,” she said delicately.  “They came from this time, but they knew where they were going.  Or where they thought they were going, because plainly they didn’t make it there.  So, you know…”

 “How did they find out it was possible?” he finished for her.  He glanced down at her notebook.  “Maybe more people read Pig Latin than you think.

Excerpt  "the house takes a piece"

#DailyLines   #Book9   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #NOitsnotfinishedyet   #IllTELLyouwhenitis   

 It was a big house.  And seemed even bigger with only two people and a dog in it.

 Fanny, deprived of companionship, clung to me like a small cocklebur, her footsteps echoing behind me—and the tic-tic-tic of Bluebell’s behind hers-- as I went to and fro from surgery to kitchen to parlor and back to surgery, the three of us always conscious of the vacant bedrooms overhead and the distant, shadowy, empty third floor high above, its walls a ghostly forest of studs, its glassless windows still covered by laths to keep out rain and snow until the vanished Master should return to finish the jobs he’d left undone.

 I’d invited her to share my bedroom, and we’d hauled in the truckle bed from the children’s room.   It was a comfort to hear each other’s breathing in the night, something warm and quick, almost drowning out the slow, chilled breathing of the house around us—almost imperceptible, but definitely there.  Especially at dusk, when the shadows began to rise up the walls like a silent tide, spilling darkness into the room.

 Now and then I’d wake at dawn to find Fanny in my bed, curled against me for warmth and sound asleep, Bluey lying in a nest of quilts at our feet.  The dog would look up when I woke, gently thwapping her feathery tail against the bedding, but she wouldn’t move until Fanny did.  

 “They’ll come back,” I assured her, every day.  “All of them.  We just have to stay busy until they do.”

 But Fanny had never lived alone a day in her life.  She didn’t know how to deal with solitude, let alone a solitude filled with the menace of one’s own thoughts.

 “What if--?” was the constant refrain of her thoughts.  The fact that it was also the refrain—if a silent one—of mine didn’t help.

   “Do you think houses are alive?” Fanny blurted one day.  

 “Yes, I’m sure of it,” I said rather absently. 

 “You are?”  Fanny’s round eyes jarred me back into the present. We were darning socks in front of the fire, having finished the morning chores and eaten lunch.  We’d fed the pigs, forked dry hay for the other stock, and milked the cow and two goats—I’d have to churn butter tomorrow, leave aside a couple of buckets for cheese-making, and send the rest of the extra milk downhill to Bobby Higgins.   

 “Well…yes,” I said slowly.  “I think any place that people live for a long time probably absorbs a bit of them.   Certainly houses affect the people who live in them—why shouldn’t it work both ways?”

 “Both ways?”  She looked dubious.  “You mean that I left part of me at the brothel—and I brought part of the brothel with me?”

 “Didn’t you?”  I asked gently.   Her face went blank for a moment, but then the life returned to her eyes.

“Yes,” she said, but she was wary now, and added nothing more.

Excerpt "William is taken"

#DailyLines  #Book9   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #NOitsnotdone  #YESitsgettingclose  #IllTELLyouOK ?

 William examined his handkerchief critically.  There wasn’t much left of it; they’d tried to bind his wrists with it and he’d ripped it to shreds, getting it off.   Still…  He blew his nose on it, very gently.  Still bloody, and he dabbed the seepage gingerly.  Footsteps were coming up the tavern’s stairs toward the room where he sat, guarded by two wary privates. 

“He says he’s _who_?” said an annoyed voice outside the room.   Someone said something in reply, but it was lost in the scraping of the door across the uneven floor as it opened.  He rose slowly to his feet and drew himself up to his full height, facing the officer—a major of dragoons—who had just come in.  The major stopped abruptly, forcing the two men behind him to stop as well.

“He says he’s the fncking ninth Earl of Ellesmere,” William said in a hoarse, menacing tone, and fixed the major with the eye that he could still open. 
“Actually, he is,” said a lighter voice, sounding both amused—and familiar.  William blinked at the man who now stepped into the room, a slender, dark-haired figure in the uniform of a captain of infantry.   “_Captain_ Lord Ellesmere, in fact.  Hallo, William.”

“I’ve resigned my commission,” William said flatly.  “Hallo, Denys.”

“But not your title.”  Denys Randall looked him up and down, but forebore to comment on his appearance.

“Resigned your commission, have you?”  The major, a youngish, thick-set fellow who looked as though his breeches were too tight, gave William an unpleasant look.  “In order to turn your coat and join the rebels, I take it?”

William breathed, twice, in order to avoid saying anything rash.

“No,” he said, in an unfriendly voice.

“Naturally not,” Denys said, gently rebuking the major.  He turned back to William.  “And naturally, you would have been traveling with a company of American militia because….?”

“I was not traveling with them,” William said, successfully not adding “you nit” to this statement.  “I encountered the gentlemen in question last night at a tavern, and won a substantial amount from them at cards.  I left the tavern early this morning and resumed my journey, but they followed me, with the obvious intent of taking back the money by force.”

“Obvious intent?” echoed the major skeptically.  “How did you discern such intent?  Sir,” he added reluctantly.

“I’d imagine that being pursued and beaten to a pulp might have been a fairly unambiguous indication,” Denys said.  “Sit down, Ellesmere; you’re dripping on the floor.  Did they in fact take back the money?”  He pulled a large, snowy-white handkerchief from his sleeve and handed it to William.

“Yes.   Along with everything else in my pockets.  I don’t know what’s become of my horse.”  He dabbed the handkerchief against his split lip.  He could smell Randall’s cologne on it, despite his swollen nose—the real Eau de Cologne, smelling of Italy and sandalwood.  Lord John used it now and then, and the scent comforted him a little.

“So you claim to know nothing of the men with whom we found you?” said the other officer, this one a lieutenant, a man of about William’s own age, eager as a terrier.   The major gave him a look of dislike, indicating that he didn’t think he needed any assistance in questioning William, but the lieutenant wasn’t attending.  “Surely if you were playing cards with them, you must have gleaned some information?”

“I know a few of their names,” William said, feeling suddenly very tired.   “That’s all.”

That was actually not all, by a long chalk, but he didn’t want to talk about the things he’d learned—that Abbot was a blacksmith and had a clever dog who helped him at his forge, fetching small tools or faggots for the fire when asked.   Justin Martineau had a new wife, to whose bed he longed to return.  Geoffrey Garland’s wife made the best beer in the village, and his daughter’s was nearly as good, though she was but twelve years old.  Garland was one of the men the captain had chosen to hang.   He swallowed, his throat thick with dust and unspoken words.

He’d escaped the noose largely because of his skill at cursing in Latin, which had disconcerted the captain long enough for William to identify himself, his ex-regiment, and a list of prominent army officers who would vouch for him, beginning with General Clinton (God, where _was_ Clinton now?).

Denys Randall was murmuring to the major, who still looked displeased, but had dropped from a full boil to a disgruntled simmer.  The lieutenant was watching William intently, through narrowed eyes, obviously expecting him to leap from the bench and make a run for it.  The man kept unconsciously touching his cartridge box and then his holstered pistol, clearly imagining the wonderful possibility that he could shoot William dead as he ran for the door.  William yawned, hugely and unexpectedly, and sat blinking, sudden exhaustion washing through him like the tide.

Right this moment, he really didn’t care what happened next. 

Excerpt "The White Sow"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #NOitisntfinishedyet  #Illtellyouwhenitis  #GoReadCLANLANDS  #whileyourewaiting

 It had been one of those beautiful days of early autumn, when the sun is bright and warm at its zenith, but a chill creeps in at dawn and dusk and  the nights are cold enough to make a good fire, a good thick quilt and a good man with a lot of body heat in bed beside you more than welcome.

 The good man in question stretched himself, groaning, and relapsed into the luxury of rest with a sigh, his hand on my thigh.  I patted it and rolled toward him, dislodging Adso, who had alighted at the foot of the bed, but leapt off with a brief mirp! of annoyance at this indication that we didn’t mean to lapse into immobility just yet.

 “So, Sassenach, what have ye been doing all day?”  Jamie asked, stroking my hip.  His eyes were half-closed in the drowsy pleasure of warmth, but focused on my face.

 “Oh, Lord…”  Dawn seemed an eon ago, but I stretched myself and eased comfortably into his touch.  “Just chores, for the most part…but a man named Herman Mortenson came up from Woolam’s Mill in late morning to have a pilonidal cyst at the base of his spine lanced and evacuated; I haven’t smelled anything that bad since Bluebell rolled in a decayed pig’s carcass.  But then,” I added, sensing that this might not be the right note on which to begin a pleasant autumn evening’s rencontre, “I spent most of the afternoon in the garden, pulling up peanut bushes and picking the last of the beans.  And talking to the bees, of course.”

 “Did they have anything interesting to say to ye, Sassenach?”  The stroking had edged over into a pleasant massage of my behind, which had the salutary side effect of causing me to arch my back and press my breasts lightly against his chest.  I used my free hand to loosen my shift, gather one breast up and rub my nipple against his, which made him clutch my arse and say something under his breath in Gaelic.

 “And, um, how was _your_ day?” I asked, desisting.

 “If ye do that again, Sassenach, I’m no going to answer for the results,” he said, scratching his nipple as though it had been bitten by a large mosquito.   “As for what I did, I built a new gate for the farrowing sty.  Speakin’ o’ pigs.”

 “Speaking of pigs…” I repeated, slowly.  “Um…did you go into the sty?

 “No.  Why?”  His hand moved a little further down, cupping my left buttock.

 “I’d forgotten to tell you, because you’d gone to Tennessee to talk to Mr. X and Colonel Y and didn’t come back for four days.  But I went up there—”  the sty was a small cave in the limestone, well above the house—“a week ago, to fetch a jar of turpentine I’d left there from the worming, and—you know how the cave curves off to the left?”

 He nodded, eyes fixed on my mouth as though reading my lips.

 “Well, I went round the corner, and there they were.”


 “The White Sow herself, with what I assume were two of her daughters or grand-daughters…the others weren’t white, but they had to be related to her because all three of them were the same size—immense.”  Your average wild hog stood about four foot at the shoulder and weighed slightly less than two hundred pounds.  The White Sow, who was not a wild hog herself, but presumably the product of a domestic porcine line bred for poundage, was a good deal older, greedier and more ferocious than the average, and while I wasn’t as good as Jamie at estimating the weight of livestock, I would have clocked her at three hundred pounds without a moment’s hesitation.  Her descendants weren’t much smaller.

Excerpt  "Roger meets 20 year old Jenny"

#GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE    #BookNine   #Yesitsdoingfine  #Noitsnotdone  #Nostompingyourfeetwonthelp   #Illletyouknowwhenitsdone  #dontworry

 Roger opened his mouth to reply, but his throat had closed as hard as if he’d swallowed a rock, and nothing came out but a muffled grunt.

 Jamie smiled and touched his arm, urging him toward a big stone at what Roger assumed would be the front of the house.   Two pegged strings ran out at ninety-degree angles from the stone, outlining two sides of the house’s footprint.   It was going to be a sizable house—maybe even bigger than the original Big House.

 “Come walk the foundation with me, aye?”

 Roger bobbed his head and followed his father-in-law to the big stone, and was surprised to see that the word “FRASER” had been chiseled into it, and below that, “1779”.

 “My cornerstone,” Jamie said.   “I thought if the house was to burn down again, at least folk would ken we’d been here, aye?”

 “Ah…mm,” Roger managed.  He cleared his throat hard, coughed, and found enough air for a few words.  “Lallybroch…y-your da...”   He pointed upward, as though to a lintel. “He put—the date.”  Jamie’s face lighted.   

 “He did,” he said.  “The place is still standing, then?”

 “It was last time I…saw it.”  His throat had loosened as the grip of emotion left it.  “Though…come to think—“  He stopped, recalling just when he’d last seen Lallybroch.  

 “I wondered, ken.”  Jamie had turned his back and was leading the way down what would be the side of the house.   A smell like roast chicken was wafting from the fire; it must be the pigeons.   “Brianna told me about the men who came.”  He glanced back briefly at Roger, his face careful.  “Ye were gone then, of course, lookin’ for Jem.”

 “Yes.” And Bree had been forced to leave the house—their house—abandoned to the hands of thieves and kidnappers.  It felt like the rock had dropped from his throat into his chest.  No use thinking of that just now, though, and he shoved the vision of people shooting at his wife and children down into the bottom of his brain—for the moment.

 “As it is,” he said, catching up with Jamie.  “The last time I saw Lallybroch was…a bit earlier than that.”

 Jamie paused, one eyebrow raised, and Roger cleared his throat.   It was what he’d come back here to say; no better time to say it.

 “When I went to find Jem, I started by going to Lallybroch.  He knew it, it was his home—I thought, if he somehow got away from Cameron, he’d maybe go there.”

 Jamie looked at him for a moment, then drew breath and nodded.  “The lass said…1739?”

 “You would have been eighteen.   Away at university in Paris.  Your family was very proud of you,” Roger added softly.  Jamie turned his head sharply away, and stood quite still; Roger could hear the catch in his breath.

 “Jenny,” he said.  “Ye met Jenny.  _Then_.”

 “Aye, I did.  She was maybe twenty.  Then.”  And _then_, for him, was no more than six months in the past.  And Jenny now was what, sixty?  “I thought—I thought I should maybe say something to ye, before I met her again.”

Excerpt "BJR's son"

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 “Randall, did ye say?”   Jamie lowered his arm, slowly as he might do facing a coiled snake, eyes fixed on it in case of the slightest movement.

 “I did, sir.” The young man had frozen where he stood, hand on the table.   Now he moved, straightening slowly, as slowly as Jamie’s own movement.  “Captain Denys Randall, of His Majesty’s 14th Foot.  And you are?”

 Jamie’s eyes flicked toward me, questioning.   I nodded, feeling jerky as a puppet whose strings have frayed.

 “Your…mother,” I said, and stopped to clear my throat.  “Her name is Mary?  Or—or was?”

 The tension in his face lessened just a little.

 “It is, madam.  My mother’s name is Mary Hawkins Randall Isaacs.  She lives in Sussex.”

 “Oh,” I said, and felt a sudden expansion in my chest.  “Oh…_Mary_.”  Tears stung my eyes, but I blinked them back.  This wasn’t the time for auld lang syne. 

 “I was a good friend of your mother’s…once,” I told him.  “My name is Claire Fraser.   This is my husband, Colonel James Fraser.”  I put a hand on Jamie’s forearm, and he reluctantly sheathed his sword.

 “Aye,” he said, mildly.  “I kent your father.”

Excerpt "prayer for the bees"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.   In celebration of Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser’s birthday!    John Quincy Myers has brought Claire a swarm of  bees, and is explaining to her the notion that she should bless her new bees.]

“Sit completely still.

“Do God's will,” he finished, opening his eyes.  He shook his head.  “Don’t that beat all?  Tellin’ one bee to sit still, let alone a thousand of ‘em at once?  Why would bees put up with something unmannerly like that, I ask you?”

“Well, it must work,” I said.  “Jamie’s brought home honey from Salem, many times.  Maybe they’re German bees.  Do you know a more…mannerly blessing?”

His lips pursed dubiously, and I caught the glimpse of one or two ragged yellow fangs.  Could he still chew meat?  I wondered, revising the dinner menu slightly.  I could dice the rabbit meat small and stir it into scrambled eggs with chopped onions…

 “I suspect I remember most of this’n…

“O God,  Creator of all critters, you bless the seed and make it profitable…is that right, profitable?  Yes, I reckon that’s it…profitable to our use.    By the intercession of…well, there’s a passel of saints or somesuch in there, but dang if I recall anybody but John the Baptist—though if anybody should know about honey, you’d think it’d be him, wouldn’t you?  What with the locusts and livin’ in a bearskin—though why anybody’d do like that in a hot place like I hear the Holy Land is, I surely couldn’t say.  Anyway….” His eyes closed again, and he stretched out his hand, almost unconsciously, toward the bee-skep, wreathed in a slow-moving cloud of flying bees.

 “By the intercession of whoever might want to intercede, will You be mercifully hearin’ our prayers.   Bless and sanctify these here bees by Your compassion, that they might…  Well,” he said, opening his eyes and frowning at me, “it says ‘abundantly bear fruit,’ though any damn fool knows it’s honey you want ‘em to be abundant with.  Still..”  The wrinkled lids closed against the dying sunlight again, and he finished, “for the beauty and adornment of Your holy temple and for our humble use.”

 “They’s a bit more,” he said, dropping his hand and turning to me, “but that’s the meat of it.  What it comes down to, I’d say, is you can bless your bees any way as seems good to you.  The only important thing—and you maybe know this already—is that you got to talk to ‘em regular.”

 “About anything in particular?” I asked warily, flexing my fingers and trying to recall if I’d ever had a conversation with my previous hives.

 I probably had, but not consciously.  I was, like most gardeners, in the habit of muttering to myself among the weeds and vegetables, execrating bugs and rabbits and exhorting the plants. God knew what I might have said to the bees along the way…

 “Bees are real sociable,” Myers explained, and blew one of them gently off the back of his hand.  “And they’re curious, which only makes sense, them goin’ back and forth and gatherin’ news with their pollen.   So you tell ‘em what’s happening—if someone’s come a-visitin’, if a new babe’s been born, if anybody new was to settle, or a settler depart—or die.  See, if somebody leaves or dies,” he explained, brushing a bee off my shoulder, “and you don’t tell the bees, they take offense, and the whole lot of ‘em will fly right off.”

 I could see quite a few similarities between John Quincy Myers and a bee, in terms of gathering news, and smiled at the thought.   I wondered if he’d be offended at finding out that someone had kept a juicy piece of gossip from him, but on the whole, I doubted that anyone did.  He had a gentleness that invited confidence, and I was sure that he kept many people’s secrets.

 “Well, then.”   The sun was coming down fast now; the damp scent of the plants was strong and rays of light knifed between the palisades, vivid amid the rustling shadows of the garden.  “Best get on with it, I suppose.”

 Given the disparate examples offered by John Quincy, I was fairly sure I could roll my own with regard to the blessing.   We filled the four dishes with water and put them under the legs of the stool, to keep ants from climbing up to the hive, drawn by the scent of honey.  A few of these voracious insects were already making their way up the stool’s legs and I brushed them away with a fold of my skirt—my first gesture of protection toward my new bees.

 John Quincy smiled and nodded at me as I straightened up, and I nodded back, reached out a tentative hand through the veil of bees coming in to the hive, and touched the smooth twisted straw of the skep.  It might have been imagination, but I thought I could feel a vibration through my skin, just below the threshold of hearing, a strong and certain hum.

 “Oh, Lord,” I said—and wished I knew the name of the patron saint of bees, for surely there must be one—“please make these bees feel welcome in their new home.   Help me to protect and care for them, and may they always find flowers.   Er…and quiet rest at the end of each day.  Amen.”

 “That’ll do just fine, Mrs. Claire,”  John Quincy said, and his voice was low and warm as the hum of the bees.

 We left, closing and fastening the gate carefully behind us, and made our way down, out of the shadow of the towering chimney and along the eastern wall of the house.  It was getting dark fast now, and the cooking fire leapt up as we came into the kitchen, shedding light on my waiting family.   _Home_.

Excerpt  "Claire's blue light"

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 “Have ye ever seen that yourself, _a nighean_?” Jamie asked, when I’d finished.  “A blue light, as he said?”

 A small, deep shiver went through me that had nothing to do with the cooling air.  I looked away, to a buried past.  Or one I’d tried to bury.

 “I…well, yes,” I said, and swallowed.   “But I thought I was hallucinating at the time, and it’s quite possible I _was_.  I’m reasonably sure that I was actually dying at the time, and imminent death might quite well alter one’s perceptions.”

 “Aye, it does,” he said, rather dryly.  “But that’s not to say what ye see in such a state isna true.”  He looked closely at my face, considering.

 “Ye dinna need to tell me,” he said quietly, and touched my shoulder.  “There’s no need to live such things again, if they dinna come back of their own accord.”

 “No,” I said, maybe a little too quickly.  I cleared my throat, and took a firm grip on mind and memory. 

 “I won’t.   It’s just that I had a bad infection, and—and Master Raymond—“  I wasn’t looking directly at him, but I felt his head lift suddenly at the name.  “He came and healed me.  I don’t have any idea how he did it, and I wasn’t thinking _anything_ consciously.  But I saw—“  I rubbed a hand slowly over my forearm, seeing it again.  “It was blue, the bone inside my arm.  Not a vivid blue, not like that—“  I gestured toward the mountain, where the evening sky above the clouds had gone the color of larkspur.   “A very soft, faint blue.  But it did—‘glow’ isn’t the right word, really.  It was…alive.”

 It had been.  And I’d felt the blue spread outward from my bones, wash through me.  And felt the bursting of the microbes in my system, dying like stars.

 The remembered sense of it lifted the hairs on my arms and neck, and filled me with a strange sensation of well-being, like warm honey being stirred.

 A wild cry from the woods above broke the mood, and Jamie turned, smiling.

 “Och, there’s wee Oggy.  He sounds like a hunting catamount.”

 “Or possibly an air-raid siren, depending on your frame of reference.” I got to my feet, brushing grass off my skirt.  “I think he’s the loudest child I’ve ever heard.”

 As though the shriek had been a signal, I heard hooting from the hollow below, and a gang of children burst out of the trees by the creek, followed by Bree and Roger, walking slowly, heads leaning toward each other, deep in what looked like contented conversation.

 “I’m going to need a bigger house,” Jamie said, meditatively.

Excerpt "Jamie to Bree about LJG letter"

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#So  #WhatAreYOUFixingforThanksgivingDinner   ?

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon.]

“I’m no going to tell her about [   ],” he said to me.  I was sniffing cautiously at the stew I’d made for dinner, but desisted in order to look sideways at him.

 “Why on earth not?”

 “Because if I did, she’d go because she thought I wanted her to, even if she otherwise wouldna go at all.”

 That was probably true, though I personally didn’t see anything wrong with asking her to do something Jamie wanted done.  He plainly did, though, so I nodded agreeably and held out the spoon to him.

 “Taste that, will you, and tell me if you think it’s fit for human consumption.”

 He paused, spoon halfway to his mouth.

 “What’s in it?”

 “I was hoping you could tell me.  I think it might possibly be venison, but Mrs. MacDonald didn’t know for sure; her husband came home with it from a trip to the Cherokee villages and it didn’t have any skin on it, and he said he’d been too drunk when he won it in a dice game to have asked.”

 Eyebrows raised as high as they’d go, he sniffed gingerly, blew on the spoonful of hot stew, then licked up a small taste, closing his eyes like a French _degustateur_ judging the virtues of a new Rhone.

 “Hmm,” he said.  He lapped a little more, though, which was encouraging, and finally took a whole bite, which he chewed slowly, eyes still closed in concentration.

 Finally he swallowed, and opening his eyes, said, “It needs pepper.  And maybe vinegar?”

 “For taste, or disinfection?” I asked.   I glanced at the pie-safe, wondering whether I could scrabble together sufficient remnants from its contents for a substitute dinner.

 “Taste,” he said, leaning past me to dip the spoon again.  “It’s wholesome enough, though.  I think it’s wapiti—and meat from a verra old, tough buck.   Is it not Mrs. MacDonald who thinks you’re a witch?”

 “Well, if she does, she kept it to herself when she brought me her youngest son yesterday, with a broken leg.  The older son brought the meat this morning.  It was quite a large chunk of meat, regardless of origin.   I put the rest in the smokehouse, but it smelled a little odd.”

 “What smells odd?”   The back door opened and Brianna came in, carrying a small pumpkin, Roger behind her with a basket of collard greens from the garden.

 I raised a brow at the pumpkin—too small for pie-making, and very much too green, and she shrugged.

 “A rat or something was gnawing at it when we went into the garden.”  She turned it to display fresh tooth-marks.   “I knew it would go bad right away if we left it—if the rat didn’t come right back and finish it off—so we brought it in.”

 “Well, I’ve heard of fried green pumpkin,” I said, dubiously accepting the gift.  “This is already rather an experimental meal, after all.”

 Brianna looked at the hearth and took a deep, cautious sniff.

 “It smells…edible,” she said.

 “Aye, that’s what I said,” Jamie said, waving aside the possibility of wholesale ptomaine poisoning with one hand.  “Sit down, lass.   Lord John’s sent me a wee letter.”

 “Lord John?”  One red brow arched, and her face lighted up.  “My favorite person!  What does he want?”

 Jamie stared at her.  He’d stuffed the letter in his pocket; obviously he wasn’t going to let her read it.

 “Why would ye think he wants something?” he asked, wary but curious.

 Brianna swept her skirt to one side and sat down, pumpkin still in one hand, and extended a hand to Jamie, palm up.

 “Lend me your dirk for a minute, Da.   As for Lord John, he doesn’t do social chat.  I don’t know what he wants,  but I’ve read enough of his letters to know that he doesn’t bother writing unless he’s got a purpose.”

 I snorted slightly and exchanged a look with Jamie.  That was completely true.  Granted, his purpose was occasionally just to warn Jamie that he was risking his head, his neck or his balls in whatever rash venture John thought he might be involved in, but it definitely _was_ a purpose.

 Bree took the proffered dirk and began to slice the small pumpkin, spilling glistening clumps of tangled green seeds onto the table.

 “So?” she said, eyes on her work.

 “So,” Jamie said, and took a deep breath.

[end section]

 The green pumpkin was indeed edible, though I wouldn’t say much more for it than that.

 “Needs ketchup,” was Jemmy’s comment.

 “Aye,” his grandfather agreed, chewing gingerly.  “Walnut ketchup, maybe?  Or mushroom.”

 “Walnut ketchup?”   Jemmy and Amanda burst into giggles, but Jamie merely eyed them tolerantly.

 “Aye, ye wee ignoramuses,” he said.  “Ketchup’s any relish ye put on your meat—no just that tomato mash your Mam makes for ye.”

 “What does walnut ketchup taste like?” Jem demanded.

 “Walnuts,” Jamie said, unhelpfully.   “Wi’ vinegar and anchovies and a few other things.   Hush now; I want to be speaking wi’ your mother.”

Excerpt "Claire clearly saves someone"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2019 Diana Gabaldon.]

It was dark outside; the moon had set and dawn was some way off.  It was cold, but the cold didn’t touch me.

I’d let him take the baby, at last.  Felt his hands on mine as he took her, warm and sure, his face filled with light.   He’d knelt carefully and given the baby to Susannah, placing his hand on the child in benediction.

Then he’d stood and wrapped me in my cloak and walked me outside.  I couldn’t feel the ground beneath my feet, or see the forest, but the cold air smelt of pine and lay like a balm on my heated skin.

“All right, Sassenach?” he whispered.   I seemed to be leaning against him, though I didn’t remember doing it.  I’d lost track of where my body began and ended; the pieces seemed to be floating about in a loose sort of cloud of exaltation.
I felt Jamie’s hands tremble a little as he touched my face.  From exhaustion, I thought.  The same small, constant quiver seemed to be running through me from crown to sole, like a low-voltage current of electricity.  

In fact, I’d passed clear through exhaustion and out the other side, as one does sometimes in moments of great effort,    You know that your bodily energy has been used up, and yet there’s a supernatural sense of mental clarity and a strange capacity to keep moving, but at the same time, you see it all simultaneously, from outside yourself and from your deepest core—the usual intervening layers of flesh and thought have become transparent.

“I’m fine,” I said, and I laughed.  Let my forehead fall against his chest and breathed for a moment, feeling all my pieces come to rest, whole again, as the enchantment of the last hour faded into peace.

“Jamie,” I said, a few moments later, raising my head.  “What color is my hair?”

Excerpt "Roger's luminations"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, copyright 2020 Diana Gabaldon]

 Brianna and the kids slept like the dead, sprawled on the floor of the loft like victims of some sudden plague, fallen where they lay among the barrels of varnish and lampblack and the stacks of books and pamphlets.            In spite of the long day, the emotional reunion and the impressive amount of wine drunk, Roger found himself unwilling to fall asleep at once.  Not unable; he could still feel the vibration of the wagon and the reins in his hands, and a sort of hypnosis lurked in the back of his mind, urging him to drop into a slow-moving swirl of rice paddies and circling birds, cobbled streets and tree leaves moving like smoke in the dusk.   But he held back, wanting to keep this moment for as long as he could.

 Destination.  Destiny, if he could bring himself to think such a thing.  Did normal people, ordinary people, have a destiny?  It seemed immodest to think he did—but he was a minister of God; that was exactly what he believed: that every human soul had a destiny, and had a duty to find and fulfill it.  Just at this moment, he felt the weight of the precious trust he held, and wanted never to let go of the great sense of peace that filled him.

 But the flesh is weak, and without his making any conscious decision to do so, he dissolved quietly into the night, the breath of his wife and his sleeping children, the damped fire below and the sounds of the distant marshes.

1 comment:

  1. I wish Claire was in our time to help with Diana Gabaldon's broken shoulder!