DG'S DAILY LINES

These excerpts are from the upcoming ninth book "Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone", the OUTLANDER series of novels, which focus on Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser.   


Diana Gabaldon has been posting passages of this new novel on her website, www.dianagabaldon.com, as well as on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

*Note: these excerpts may contain spoilers from the 1st eight books.  If you havena read the books, or if ye dinna want to know what's going to happen until the 9th book is published, dinna read them!



Some excerpts are duplicate, due to added dialogue, we are getting close!







Excerpt "Breakfast"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #Book9   #noitsnotdoneyet   #soonthough  #Illletyouknow  #dontworry  #yestheshowisgoodtoo   

 William had, out of what even he would admit to himself in the depths of his heart was simple obstinacy (though he passed it off to his conscience as honesty and pride--of a shockingly republican nature, but still pride), continued wearing the clothes in which he had arrived in Savannah, though Lord John’s manservant took them away every night and brushed, laundered or mended them before returning them in the morning.

 On this particular morning, though, William waked to the sight of a suit of dark gray velvet, with a waistcoat in ochre silk, tastefully embroidered with small beetles of varying colors, each with tiny red eyes.   Fresh linen and silk stockings were laid out alongside—but his ex-army kit had disappeared, save for the disreputable boots, which stood like a reproach beside his wash-stand, their scuffs and scars blushing through fresh blacking.

 He paused for a moment, then put on the banyan Papa had lent him—fine-woven blue wool, comforting on a chilly morning—washed his face and went down to breakfast.

 Papa and Amaranthus were at table, both looking as though they’d been dug up, rather than roused, from bed.

 “Good morning,” William said, rather loudly, and sat down.  “Where’s Mr. Cinnamon?”

 “Somewhere with Trevor,” Amaranthus said, blinking sleepily.  “God bless him.”

 “The little fiend yowled all night long,” Lord John said, shoving a pot of mustard in William’s direction.  “Kippers coming,” he said, evidently in explanation of the mustard.  “Didn’t you hear him?”

 “Unlike some people, I slept the sleep of the just,” William said, buttering a piece of toast.  “Didn’t hear a sound.”

 Both relatives eyed him beadily over the toast-rack.

 “I’m putting him in _your_ bed tonight,” Amaranthus said, attempting to smooth her frowsy locks.   “See how justified you feel around dawn.”

 A smell of smoky-sweet bacon wafted from the back of the house, and all three diners sat up involuntarily as the cook brought in a generous silver platter bearing not only bacon, but also sausages, black pudding and grilled mushrooms.


“_Elle ne fera pas cuire des tomate_s,”   his lordship said, with a slight shrug.   She won’t cook tomatoes.   “_Elle pense qu’ils sont toxiques_.” She thinks they’re poisonous.

“_La facon dont elle les cuisine, elle a raison_,” Amaranthus muttered, in good but oddly-accented French.  The way she cooks, them, she’s right. 






Excerpt "Bree's been gone too long"

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 My breath steamed white in the dimness of the smoke-shed.   No fire had been lit in here for over a month, and the air smelt of bitter ash and the tang of old blood.

 “How much do you think this thing weighs?”  Brianna put both hands on the shoulder of the enormous black and white hog lying on the crude table by the back wall and leaned her own weight experimentally against it.  The shoulder moved slightly—rigor had long since passed, despite the cold weather—but the hog itself didn’t budge an inch.

 “At a guess, it originally weighed somewhat more than your father.   Maybe three hundred pounds on the hoof?”  Jamie had bled and gralloched the hog when he killed it; that had probably lightened his load by a hundred pounds or so, but it was still a lot of meat.  A pleasant thought for the winter’s food, but a daunting prospect at the moment.

 I unrolled the pocketed cloth in which I kept my larger surgical tools; this was no job for an ordinary kitchen knife.

 “What do you think about the intestines?” I asked.  “Usable, do you think?”

 She wrinkled her nose, considering.  Jamie hadn’t been able to carry much beyond the carcass itself—and in fact had dragged that—but had thoughtfully salvaged twenty or thirty pounds of intestine.   He’d roughly stripped the contents, but two days in a canvas pack hadn’t improved the condition of the uncleaned entrails, not savory to start with.   I’d looked at them dubiously, but put them to soak overnight in a tub of salt water, on the off chance that the tissue hadn’t broken down too far to prevent their use as sausage casing.

 “I don’t know, Mama,” Bree said reluctantly.  “I think they’re pretty far gone.  But we might save some of it.”

 “If we can’t, we can’t.”  I pulled out the largest of my amputation saws and checked the teeth.  “We can make square sausage, after all.”   Cased sausage was much easier to preserve; once properly smoked, they’d last indefinitely.   Sausage patties were fine, but took more careful handling, and had to be packed into wooden casks or boxes in layers of lard for keeping…we hadn’t any casks, but--

 “Lard!” I exclaimed, looking up.  “Bloody hell--I’d forgotten all about that.  We don’t have a kettle, bar the kitchen cauldron, and we can’t use that.” Rendering lard took several days, and the kitchen cauldron supplied at least half our cooked food, to say nothing of hot water.

 “Can we borrow one?”  Bree glanced toward the door, where a flicker of movement showed.  “Jem, is that you?”

 “No, it’s me, auntie.”  Germain stuck his head in, sniffing cautiously.  “Mandy wanted to visit Rachel’s _petit bonbon_, and _Grand-pere _ said she could go if Jem or me would take her.   We threw bones and he lost.”

 “Oh.  Fine, then.  Will you go up to the kitchen and fetch the bag of salt from Grannie’s surgery?”

 “There isn’t any,” I said, grasping the pig by one ear and setting the saw in the crease of the neck.  “There wasn’t much, and we used all but a handful soaking the intestines.  We’ll need to borrow that, too.”

 I dragged the saw through the first cut, and was pleased to find that while the fascia between skin and muscle had begun to give way—the skin slipped a little with rough handling—the underlying flesh was still firm.  

 “I tell you what, Bree,” I said, bearing down on the saw as I felt the teeth bite between the neck bones, “it’s going to take a bit of time before I’ve got this skinned and jointed.   Why don’t you call round and see which lady might lend us her rendering kettle for a couple of days, and a half-pound of salt to be going on with?”

 “Right,” Bree said, seizing the opportunity with obvious relief.  “What should I offer her?  One of the hams?”

 “Oh, no, auntie,” said Germain, quite shocked.  “That’s much too much for the lend of a kettle!  And ye shouldna offer anyway,” he added, small fair brows drawing together in a frown.  “Ye dinna bargain a favor.  She’ll ken ye’ll give her what’s right.”

 She gave him a look, half questioning, half amused, then glanced at me.  I nodded.

“I see I’ve been gone too long,” she said lightly, and giving Germain a pat on the head, vanished on her errand.







Excerpt "Bree finishing portrait"

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 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 "Jamie reflects"

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 “I need to meet wi’ a few men there,” Jamie had said, with a casual reserve that she knew was meant to protect her own feelings.  She knew his business was that of war, and he knew how much that troubled her, but she knew how much it troubled him, and would not force him to say the things he was thinking, let alone the things he knew.

 She’d spoken about it—the war—in general, in Meeting.  Jamie nearly always came, but seldom spoke himself.  He’d come in quietly, and sit on a back bench, head bowed, listening.  Listening, as any Friend would, to the silence and his inner light.  When people felt moved of the spirit to speak, he would listen courteously to them, too, but watching the remoteness of his face on these occasions, she thought his mind was still by itself, in quiet, persistent search.

 “I dinna suppose Young Ian’s told ye much about Catholics,” he’d said to her once, when he’d paused after Meeting to give her a fleece he’d brought from Salem.  

 “Only when I ask him,” she said, with a smile.  “And thee knows he’s no theologian.  Roger Mac knows more, I think, regarding Catholic belief and practice.  Does thee want to tell me something about Catholics?  I know thee must feel seriously out-numbered every First Day.”

 He’d smiled at that, and it made her heart glad to see it.  He was so often troubled these days, and no wonder.

 “Nay, lass, God and I get on well enough by ourselves.  It’s only that when I come to your Meeting, sometimes it reminds me of a thing Catholics do now and then.  It’s no a formal thing, at all—but a body will go and sit for an hour before the Sacrament.  I’d do it now and then when I was a young man, in Paris.  We call it Adoration.”

 “What does thee do during that hour?” she’d asked, curious.

 “Nothing in particular.  Pray, for the most part.  Read, maybe, the Bible or the writings of some saint.  I’ve seen folk sing, sometimes.  I remember once, goin’ into the chapel of Saint Sebastian in the wee hours of the morning, long before dawn--almost all the candles were burnt out--and hearin’ someone playing a guitar, singing.  Very soft, not playing to be heard, ken.  Just…singing before God.”

 Something odd moved in his eyes at the recollection, but then he smiled at her again, a rueful smile.

 “I think that may be the last music I remember really hearing.”

 “What?”

 He touched the back of his head, briefly.

 “I was struck in the heid wi’ an ax, many years gone.  I lived, but I never heard music again.   The pipes, fiddles, singin’...  I ken it’s music, but to me, it’s nay more than noise.  But that song…I dinna recall the song itself, but I know how I felt when I heard it.”

 She’d never before seen a look on his face as she did when he called back that song for her, but quite suddenly she felt what he had felt in the depth of that distant night, and understood why he found peace in silent spaces.

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2019 Diana Gabaldon.   Thanks to Angela M. Dallas fir the praying bee!  (And a quick note to all the kind people who send me lovely bee photos.  I appreciate them all, but please do tell me if the photo isn't yours.  I had to take down the last post because the photo belonged to someone else on Facebook, who was rather indignant about it being used without permission.  Thanks!)








Excerpt "Practical concerns"

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 Roger had seen Jamie disappear quietly into the shadows behind the half-built chimney, and assumed that he’d gone for a piss.  But when he didn’t reappear within a few minutes, Roger detached himself from the conversation—this presently centering on the infinite possibilities for wee Oglethorpe’s eventual real name—and followed his father-in-law into the gloaming.

 He found Jamie standing on the edge of a large rectangular hole in the ground, evidently lost in contemplation of its depths.

 “New privy?” he asked, nodding into the pit.  Jamie looked up, smiling at sight of him, and Roger felt a rush of warmth—on more than one account.

 “Aye.  I’d only meant it to be the usual, ken, wi’ a single seat of ease.”  Jamie gestured at the hole, the last of the sun touching his hair and skin with a golden light.  “But with four more—and maybe yet more, in time?  As ye say ye mean to stay, I mean.” He glanced sideways at Roger, and the smile came again.

 “Then there’s the folk who come to see Claire, too.  One of the Crombie boys came down last week, to get a remedy for a case o’ the blazing shits, and he spent so long gruntin’ and groanin’ in Bobby Higgins’ privy that the family were all havin’ to trot into the woods, and Annie wasna best pleased at the state of the privy when he left, I can tell ye.”

 Roger nodded.

 “So, ye mean to make it bigger, or make two privies?
 “Aye, that’s the question.”  Jamie seemed pleased that Roger had grasped the essence of the situation so quickly.  “See, most o’ the places wi’ families have a necessary that will accommodate two at once—the MacHughes have a three-hole privy, and a thing of beauty it is, too; Sean MacHugh is a canny man with his tools, and a good thing, what wi’ seven bairns.  But the thing is—“  He frowned a little and turned to look back toward the fire, presently hidden behind the dark bulk of the chimney stack.  “The women, ken?”

 “Claire and Brianna, you mean.”  Roger took Jamie’s meaning at once.  “Aye, they’ve notions of privacy.  But a wee latch on the inside of the door…?”

 “Aye, I thought of that.”  Jamie waved a hand, dismissing it.  “The difficulty’s more what they think of….germs.”  He pronounced the word very carefully, and glanced quickly at Roger under his brows, as though to see if he’d said it right, or as if he weren’t sure it was a real word to start with.

 “Oh.  Hadn’t thought of that.  Ye mean the sick folk who come—they might leave…” he waved his own hand toward the hole.

 “Aye.  Ye should ha’ seen the carry-on when Claire insisted on scalding Annie’s privy wi’ boiling water and lye soap and pourin’ turpentine into it after the Crombie lad left.” His shoulders rose toward his ears in memory.  “If she was to do that every time we had sick folk in our privy, we’d all be shitting in the woods, too.”

 He laughed, though, and so did Roger.

 “Both, then,” Roger said.  “Two holes for the family, and a separate privy for visitors—or rather, for the surgery—say it’s for convenience.   Ye don't want to seem high-falutin’ by not letting people use your own privy.”

 “No, that wouldna do at all.”  Jamie vibrated briefly, then stilled, but stayed for a moment, looking down, a half-smile still on his face.  The smells of damp, fresh-dug earth and newly-sawn wood rose thick around them, mingling with the scent of the fire, and Roger could almost imagine that he felt the house solidifying out of the smoke.

 Jamie left off what he was thinking, then, and turned his head to look at Roger.

 “I missed ye, Roger Mac,” he said.







Excerpt "New preacher on Ridge"

#DailyLines   #Book9   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #gettingcloser  #andcloser  #butnotdoneyet  #dontworry  #Illtellyouwhenitsdone

 Roger had been of several minds regarding attending Captain Cunningham’s service.  

 “Mama and Da are going,” Bree had argued.  “And Fanny and Germain.  We don’t want to look as though we’re avoiding the poor man, do we—or high-hatting his service.”

 “Well, no.   But I don’t want to look as though I’ve just come to judge the competition, as it were.  Besides, your Da has to go; he can’t seem…partial.”

 She laughed, and bit off the thread she’d been sewing with, hemming one of Mandy’s skirts, which had somehow contrived to unhem itself on one side while the owner was supposedly virtuously occupied with helping Grannie Claire make applesauce.

 “Da doesn’t like things happening on the Ridge behind his back, so to speak,” she said.  “Not that I think Captain Cunningham is going to preach insurrection and public scandal from the pulpit.”

 “Neither am I,” he assured her.  “Not first thing, anyway.”

 “Come on,” she said.  “Aren’t you curious?”

 He was.  Intensely so.  It wasn’t as though he’d not heard his share of sermons, growing up as the son of a Presbyterian minister—but at the time, he hadn’t had the slightest thought of becoming a minister himself, and hadn’t paid much attention to the fine points.   He’d learned quite a bit during his first go at sermonizing on the Ridge, and more during his try at ordination, but that was a few years past—and many of the present audience wouldn’t know him as anything other than Himself’s son-in-law.

 “Besides,” she added, holding up the skirt and squinting at it to judge her work, “we’ll stick out like a sore thumb if we don’t go.  Everybody on the Ridge will be there, believe me.  And they’ll all be there for your service, too—remember what Da said about entertainment.”

 He had to admit that she was right on all counts.   Jamie and Claire were there in their best, looking benign, Germain and Fanny with them, looking unnaturally clean and even more unnaturally subdued.

 He cast a narrow glance at his own offspring, who were at least clean, and if not completely subdued, at least closely confined on the bench between him and Brianna.  Jemmy was twitching slightly, but reasonably quiescent, and Mandy was occupied in teaching Esmeralda the Lord’s Prayer in a loud whisper—or at least the first line, which was all Mandy knew—pressing the doll’s pudgy cloth hands piously together.

 “I wonder how long the sermon’s likely to be,” Bree said, with a glance at the kids.

 “Well, he’s used to preaching to sailors—I suppose with a captive audience that doesn’t dare leave or interrupt, ye might be tempted to go on a bit.”  He could hear from the shuffle and muttering at the back of the room that a number of older boys were standing back there; probably the same lot who’d loosed a snake during his own first sermon.

 “You aren’t planning to heckle him, are you?” asked Bree, glancing over her shoulder.

 “I’m not, no.”

 “What’s heckle, Daddy?”  Jem came out of his comatose state, attracted by the word.

 “It means to interrupt someone when they’re speaking, or shout rude things at them.”

 “Oh.”

 “And you’re never, _ever_ to do it, hear me?”

 “Oh.”  Jem lost interest and went back to looking at the ceiling.







Excerpt "Ian's 1st wife"

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 Ian didn’t pretend not to know why she asked.

 “Small,” he said, holding his hand about three inches above his elbow.  _Four inches shorter than I_…  “Neat, with a—a pretty face.“

 “If she is beautiful, Ian, thee may say so,” Rachel said dryly.  “I am a Friend; we aren’t given to vanity.”

 He looked at her, his lips twitching a little.  Then he thought better of whatever he’d been about to say.  He closed his eyes for an instant, then opened them and answered her honestly.

 “She was lovely.  I met her by the water—a pool in the river, where the water spreads out and there’s not even a ripple on the surface, but ye feel the spirit of the river moving through it just the same.”  He’d seen her standing thigh-deep in the water, clothed but with her shirt drawn up and tied round her waist with a red scarf, holding a thin spear of sharpened wood and watching for fish.

 “I canna think of her in—in her parts,” he said, his voice a little husky.  “What her eyes looked like, her face…”  he made an odd, graceful little gesture with his hand, as though he cupped Wakyo’teyehsnohsa’s cheek, then traveled the line of her neck and shoulder.   “I only—when I think of her—“  He glanced at her and made a hem noise in his throat.  “Aye.  Well.  Aye, I think of her now and then.  Not often.  But when I do, I only think of her as all of a piece, and I canna tell ye in words what that looks like.”

 “Why should thee not think of her?” Rachel said, as gently as she could.  “She was thy wife, the mother of—of your children.”

 “Aye,” he said softly, and bent his head.  She thought she might have chosen her place better; they were in the shed that served as a small barn and there was a farrowing sow in a pen right in front of them, a dozen fat piglets thrusting and grunting at her teats, a testament to fecundity.

 “I need to tell ye something, Rachel,” he said, raising his head abruptly.

 “Thee knows thee can tell me anything, Ian,” she said, and meant it, but her heart meant something different and began to beat faster.







Excerpt "John Myers brings a letter"

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 “Myers said he’s brought you something as well; did he tell you?”

“No, not yet.  Did he say what it was?”  Jamie rose slowly, stretching his back.

“A letter of some kind, he didn’t say from whom.”  I nearly added “Perhaps it’s from Lord John,” because for several years it might have been, and a welcome letter, too, reinforcing the bonds of a long friendship between Jamie and John Grey.  Fortunately, I bit my lip in time.   While the two of them were on speaking terms—just barely—they were no longer friends.  And while I would, if pushed, deny absolutely that it was my fault, it was undeniably on my account.

I kept my eyes on the quail I was cleaning, just in case Jamie might catch a wayward expression on my face, and draw uncomfortable conclusions.   He wasn’t the only person who could read minds, and I’d been looking at his face.  I had a very strong impression that when I had said “letter,” Lord John’s name had leapt to his mind, just as it had to mine.

Brianna came up the slope then, with several loaves of bread in her arms, and I pushed the thought of John Grey hastily out of my mind.

“I’ll do that, Mama,” she said, putting down the bread and nodding at the small heap of feathery bodies.   “Mr. Myers says the sun is coming down and you should go and bless your new bees before they go to sleep.”

“Oh,” I said, uncertainly.  I’d kept bees now and then, but the relationship hadn’t been in any way ceremonial.  “Did he happen to say what sort of blessing the bees might have in mind?”

“Not to me,” she said cheerfully, taking the bloody knife from my hand.  “But he probably knows.  He says he’ll meet you in the garden.”







Continuation excerpt "Lord John wants Bree"

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 Jamie read the letter through twice, his lips tightening at the same place, halfway down the first page—and then again, at the end.  It wasn’t actually unusual for him to react to one of John’s letters that way, but when he did, it was normally because it held unwelcome news of the war, of William, or of some incipient action on the part of the British government that might be about to result in Jamie’s imminent arrest or some other domestic inconvenience.

 This, however, was the first letter John had sent in nearly two years—since before Jamie’s return from the dead to find me married to John Grey, and before he had punched John in the eye as a result of this news and inadvertently caused his lordship to be arrested and nearly hanged by the American militia.  Well, turnabout was fair play, I supposed…

 No point in putting it off.

 “What does John have to say?” I asked, keeping my voice pleasantly neutral.   Jamie glanced up at me, snorted, and took off his spectacles.

 “He wants Brianna,” he said shortly, and pushed the letter across the table to me.

 I glanced involuntarily over my shoulder, but Bree had gone to the springhouse with a box of freshly-made cheeses.

[Plot Stuff/Spoilers]

 “Well, I _do_ have a plan,” Brianna said, with some asperity.  “I’m going to take the kids with me.”

 Jamie said something under his breath in Gaelic.  Roger didn’t say it, but might as well have had the words “God help us all,” tattooed on his forehead.  I felt similarly, but for once, I thought I’d concealed my sentiments better than the men, who weren’t trying to conceal theirs at all.   I wiped my face with a towel, and bent to ladle the stew into bowls.

 “Possibly there are a few refinements that could be added,” I said, as soothingly as possible, my back safely turned.   “Why don’t you call everybody in to dinner, Bree, and we’ll talk about it when the children are in bed.”








From Diana June 2019










Excerpt "William's 3rd father"

#DailyLines   #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE    #flashback   #Williamisseventeen   #WhataboutWilliamsThirdFather ?

 The upper gallery at Ellesmere.   A broad, square open staircase led upward to the second floor.  Here the roof soared high overhead, and a gallery surrounded the stairwell on three sides, with tall windows on one side and various portraits on the other three walls.

 “Isobel told me this was painted soon after her marriage,”  Lord John had said, nodding to the portrait of a very beautiful young woman.  The painter hadn’t been particularly skilled—the woman’s hair was simply dark, some color between brown and black, and her gown clumsily rendered—but William recognized her face; the same face he’d seen every day for years, in a miniature he’d carried with him from home to London, to school, and  now would take with him to the army.

 He thought the painter had loved her, perhaps; the face was done with both care and feeling.

 “Someone told me I have her mouth,” he said, softly, as though not to startle her.

 “You have,” said Lord John, raising a brow.  “Who told you that?”

 “Mother Isobel.”   He turned away from the portrait, feeling suddenly unsettled.   “It seems strange to see her—Mother Geneva—here, alone.”   There were several portraits of her at Helwater—but always portraits done with her younger sister, with her parents.  Even the portraits of her by herself were always side by side with similar portraits of Isobel.

 “So it does.”  Lord John spoke softly, too.  It was hushed as a church here on the landing, an illusion enhanced by the tall, quiet windows with their stained-glass borders.  _And by the fact that everybody in these pictures is dead…_

 He turned restlessly away, toward the opposite wall, across the open well of the staircase.   The wall was dominated by a large portrait of an elderly man in a formal wig and the robes of an Earl.  Not bad looking for his age, William thought.  Bit of a tough, though, from his expression.  The thought made William smile.

 “That’s him, is it?   My father?”







Excerpt "Some sort of meat"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #veryverywellthankyou   #abitofdomesticity

[Excerpt Copyright 2019 Diana Gabaldon.   I just used this snip elsewhere online to illustrate a bit of writing technique—i.e., weaving domestic details into the fabric of a larger scene that’s dealing with something else—so thought I might as well share it with you guys, too.  Hope you enjoy it!]

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 degustater judging the virtues of a new Beaujolais.
 “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.”







Excerpt from season four DVD 
















Excerpt "someones hurt"

#DailyLines   #BookNine  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #Clairessurgery  #Handsonmedicine  #itsgoingverywell   #thankyou  #noyoudonthaveanychoiceaboutwaitingforit  #itllbedonewhenitsdone 

 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 "Roger as the messenger"

#DailyLines   #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #noitsnotdone  #itsabigbook  #justlikealltheotherones  #Illtellyouwhenweregettingclose   #YESIworkwhenImtraveling  #sheesh   #minorspoilerinthisone   #emptybracketsmeanImnottellingyousomething  #notthatIdontknow  #cuzIdo

Roger had dressed for his occasions.  Luckily, the same black broadcloth suit, long-coated and pewter-buttoned, would do for both, since it was the only one he possessed.   Brianna had plaited and clubbed his hair severely, and he was so clean-shaven that his jaw felt raw.  A high white stock wrapped round his neck completed the picture—he hoped—of a respectable clergyman.   The British sentries at the barricade on [     ]  had given him no more than a disinterested glance before nodding him through.   He could only hope the American sentries outside the city felt the same lack of curiosity about ministers.

 He rode out a good distance from the city before  beginning to circle back toward the Americans’ siege lines, and it was just past noon when he came within sight of them.

 The American camp was rough but orderly, an acre or so of canvas tents fluttering in the wind like trapped gulls, and the amazingly big [    ] war-ships visible beyond, from which every so often, a volley of cannon-fire would erupt with gouts of flame, setting loose vast clouds of white smoke to drift across the marshes with the scattered clouds of gulls and oyster-catchers alarmed by the noise.  

There were pickets posted among the [   ] bushes, one of whom popped up like a jack-in-the-box and pointed a musket at Roger in a business-like way.

“Halt!”

Roger pulled in his reins and raised his stick, white handkerchief tied to its end, feeling foolish.  It worked, though.   The picket whistled through his teeth for a companion, who popped up alongside, and at the first man’s nod, came forward to take Dundee’s bridle.

“What’s your name and what d’you want?” the man demanded, squinting up at Roger.   He wore a backwoodsman’s ordinary breeches and hunting shirt, but had army boots and an odd uniform cap, shaped like a squashed bishop’s mitre, and bore a copper badge on his collar reading “Sgt. Bradford”.

 “My name is Roger MacKenzie.   I’m a Presbyterian minister, and I’ve brought a letter to [      ]  from General James Fraser, late of George Washington’s Monmouth command.”

 Sergeant Bradford’s brows rose out of sight beneath his hat.

 “General Fraser,” he said.   “Monmouth?  That the fellow that abandoned his troops to tend his wife?”

 This was said with a derisive tone, and Roger felt the words like a blow to the stomach.  Was this how Jamie’s admittedly dramatic resignation of his commission was commonly perceived in the Continental Army?   If so, his own present mission might be a little more delicate than he’d expected.

 “General Fraser is my father-in-law, sir,” Roger said, in a neutral voice.  “An honorable man—and a very brave soldier.”

 The look of scorn didn’t quite leave the man’s face, but it moderated into a short nod, and the man turned away, jerking his chin in an indication that Roger might follow, if he felt so inclined.









Excerpt "news"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #BookNine #Noitsnothelastbook   #NOitisntfinished   #Later   #Illtellyouwhenwegetclose  #Savannah   #PortraitPainting   #NoNewIsGoodNews

 “R oo wrkg n m mth?”  Mrs. Brumby said, moving her lips as little as possible, just in case.

 “No, you can talk,” Brianna assured her, suppressing a smile.  “Don’t move your hands, though.”

 “Oh, of course!”  The hand that had risen unconsciously to fiddle with her densely sculpted curls dropped like a stone into her lap, but then she giggled.  “Must I have Heike feed me my elevenses?  I hear her coming.”

 Heike weighed about fourteen stone and could be heard coming for some considerable time before she appeared, the wooden heels of her shoes striking the bare floorboards of the hall with a measured tread like the thump of a bass drum.

 “I have _got_ to do that floor-cloth,” Bree said, not realizing that she’d spoken aloud until Angelina laughed.

 “Oh, do,” she said.  “I meant to tell you, Mr. Brumby says he prefers the pineapples, and could you possibly have it ready by Wednesday-week?   He wants to have a great dinner for Colonel Campbell and his staff.  In gratitude, you know,  for his gallant defense of the city.”   She hesitated, her little pink tongue darting out to touch her lips.  “Do you think…er…I don’t wish to—to be—that is—“

 Brianna made a hasty dab, a streak of pale pink catching the shine of light on the roundness of Angelina’s delicate forearm.

 “It’s all right,” she said, barely attending.  “Don’t move your fingers.”

 “No, no!” Angelina said, twitching her fingers guiltily, then trying to remember how they’d been.

 “That’s fine, don’t move!”

 Angelina froze, and Bree managed the suggestion of shadow between the fingers while Heike clumped in.   To her surprise, though, there was no sound of rattling tea-things, nor any hint of the cake she’d smelled baking this morning as she dressed.

 “What is it, Heike?”   Mrs. Brumby was sitting rigidly erect, and while she’d been given permission to talk, kept her eyes fixed on the vase of flowers Brianna had given her as a focus spot.   “Where is our morning tea?”

 “_Ist ein Mann_,” Heike informed her mistress portentously, dropping her voice as though to avoid being overheard.

 “Someone at the door, you mean?”  Angelina risked a curious glance at the studio door before jerking her eyes back into line.  “What sort of man?”

 Heike pursed her lips and nodded at Brianna.

 “_Ein Soldat.  Er will sie sehen_.”

 “A soldier?” Angelina dropped her pose and looked at Brianna in astonishment.  “And he wants to see Mrs. MacKenzie?  You’re sure of that, Heike?   You don’t think he might want Mr. Brumby?”

 Heike was fond of her young mistress and refrained from rolling her eyes, instead merely nodding again at Bree.

 “Her,” she said in English.   “_Er sagte, ‘die_ Lay-dee Pain-ter.’”  She folded her hands under her apron and waited with patience for further instructions.

 “Oh.”  Angelina was clearly at a loss—and just as clearly had lost all sense of her pose.

 “Shall I go and talk to him?” Bree inquired.  She swished her brush in the turps and wrapped it in a bit of damp rag.  

 “Oh, no—bring him here, will you, Heike?”   Angelina plainly wanted to know what this visitation was about.   And, Bree thought with an internal smile, seeing Angelina poke hastily at her hair, be seen in the thrilling position of being painted.

 The soldier in question proved to be a very young man in the uniform of the Continental Army.   Angelina gasped at sight of him and dropped the glove she was holding in her left hand.

 “Who are you, sir?” she demanded, sitting up as straight as she possibly could.  “And how come you here, may I ask?”

 “Your servant, ma’am,” the young man replied, “and yours, ma’am,” turning to Brianna.   He withdrew a sealed note from the bosom of his coat and bowed to her.  “If I may take the liberty of inquiring—are you Mrs. Roger MacKenzie?”

 She felt as though she’d been dropped abruptly down a glacial abyss, freezing cold and ice-blind.  Confused memories of  yellow telegrams seen in war movies, the looming threat of the siege, and _where was he_?








Goodness….it’s #WorldOutlanderDay!   People keep saying to me, “Did you ever think _this_ would happen, when you started writing your book in 1988?”   Well, no…

I _thought_ that I’d write this whatever-it-was for practice, and then write a Real Book—perhaps a crime novel, as that’s what I mostly read at the time.  I thought I could probably get that one published, eventually, and if so, then I’d write crime novels on the side (while doing my university job) for about twelve years, at which point I might be good/lucky enough to get onto the NYT Bestseller List.   At that point (I thought), I’d quit my job and become a full-time writer.

So I thought I’d _succeed_, eventually—but I sort of didn’t plan on anything like this…

SO—THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!  Because we wouldn’t be here without your kind appreciation and support.   

AND SO….what are y’all planning to do to celebrate #WorldOutlanderDay?



Excerpt "hunting with bree"

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

 Jamie and Brianna came back in late afternoon, with two brace of squirrels, fourteen doves, and a large piece of stained and tattered canvas which, unwrapped, revealed something that looked like the remnants of a particularly grisly murder.

 “Supper?” I asked, gingerly poking at a shattered bone sticking out of the mass of hair and slick flesh. The smell was iron-raw and butcherous, with a rank note that seemed familiar, but decay hadn’t yet set in to any noticeable degree. 
 “Aye, if ye can manage, Sassenach.”  Jamie came and peered down at the bloody shambles, frowning a little.   “I’ll tidy it up for ye.  I need a bit o’ whisky first, though.”

 Given the blood-stains on his shirt and breeks, I hadn’t noticed the equally stained rag tied round his leg, but now saw that he was limping.   Raising a brow, I went to the large basket of food, small tools, and minor medical supplies that I lugged up to the house site every morning.

 “From what’s left of it, I presume that is—or was—a deer.  Did you actually tear it apart with your bare hands?”

 “No, but the bear did,”  Bree said, straight-faced.  She exchanged complicit glances with her father, who hummed in his throat.

 “Bear,” I said, and took a deep breath.  I gestured at his shirt. “Right.  How much of that blood is yours?”  

 “No much,” he said tranquilly, and sat down on the big log.  “Whisky?”

I looked sharply at Brianna, but she seemed to be intact.  Filthy, and with green-gray bird-droppings streaked down her shirt, but intact.   Her face glowed with sun and happiness, and I smiled.

“There’s whisky in the tin canteen hanging over there,” I said, nodding toward the big spruce at the far side of the clearing.  Do you want to fetch it for your father while I see what’s left of his leg?”

“Sure.   Where are Mandy and Jem?”

“When last seen, they were playing by the creek with Aidan and his brothers.  Don’t worry,” I added, seeing her lower lip suck suddenly in.  “It’s very shallow there and Fanny said she’d go and keep an eye on Mandy while she’s collecting leeches.  Fanny’s very dependable.”

“Mm-hm.”  Bree still looked dubious, but I could see her fighting down her maternal impulse to go scoop Mandy out of the creek immediately.  “I know I met her last night, but I’m not sure I remember Fanny.  Where does she live?”

“With us,” Jamie said, matter-of-factly.  “Ow!” 

“Hold still,” I said, spreading the puncture wound in his leg open with two fingers while I poured saline solution into it.  “You don’t want to die of tetanus, do you?”

“And what would ye do if I said yes, Sassenach?”

“The same thing I’m doing right now.  I don’t care if you want to or not; I’m not having it.”

[And thank you to Laura Mackle for the lovely bee!]







Excerpt "moms the ambulance and da's the police"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #comingalongreallywellthanks  #noIdontknowwhenitwillbeout  #probablysometimeafterIfinishwritingitthough

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2019 Diana Gabaldon.    This is Roger and Brianna, looking over the site of the first cabin that served as a church, which in their absence, has been struck by lightning and burned down.]

They stood still for a little, listening to the wood around them.   Two male mockingbirds were having their own personal war in the nearby trees, singing their little brass lungs out.  Despite the charred ruin, there was a deep sense of peace in the little clearing.   Green shoots and small shrubs had come up through the ashes, vivid against the black.  Unresisted, the forest would patiently heal the scar, take back its ground and go on as though nothing had happened, as though the little church had never been here.

  “Do you remember the first sermon you preached?” she asked softly.  Her eyes were fixed on the open ground.  

“Aye,” he said, and smiled a little.  “One of the lads set a snake loose in the congregation and Jamie snatched it up before it could cause a ruckus.   One of the nicest things he’s ever done for me.”

Brianna laughed and he felt the warm vibration of it through her clothes.   

“The look on his _face_.  Poor Da, he’s so afraid of snakes.”

“And no wonder,” Roger said with a shrug.  “One almost killed him.”

“A lot of things have almost killed him,” she said, the laughter gone.   “One of these days….”  Her voice was husky.

He put a hand round her shoulder and massaged it gently.

“It’ll be one of these days for everyone, _mo graidh_.  If it weren’t, people wouldn’t think they need a minister.   As for your Da…as long as your mother’s here, I think he’ll be all right, no matter what.”

She gave a deep sigh, and the tension in her body eased.

“I think everybody feels like that about them both.   If they’re here, everything will be all right.”
_You feel that way about them_, he thought.  And in fairness, so did he.  _I hope the kids will feel that way about us_.
   
“Aye.  The essential social services of Fraser’s Ridge,” he said dryly.  “Your mother’s the ambulance and your da’s the police.” 







Excerpt "Gaelic lessons"

#DailyLines  #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #GaelicLessons

 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 _Gaidhlig_.”

 “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.  








Excerpt "Bree hunts with Jamie"

#DailyLines  #BookNine  #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone   #NoItIsntFinished   #MaybeNextYear  #WeWillSee   #BlueWine

 It was what her mother called a “blue wine” day.   One where air and sky were one thing together and every breath intoxication.  Brown leaves crackled with each step, the scent of them sharp as that of the pine needles higher up.  They were climbing the mountain, guns in hand, and Brianna Fraser MacKenzie was one with the day.

 Her father held back a hemlock branch for her and she ducked past to join him.

 “[Gaelic for “sweet grass”],” he said, gesturing to the wide meadow that spread before them.   “Recall any of the Gaidhlìg, do ye, lass?”

“You said something about the grass,” she said, scrabbling hastily through her mental closets.  “But I don’t know [sweet].”  

“Sweet Grass.  It’s what we call this wee meadow.  Good pasture, but too great a climb for most of the stock, and ye dinna want to leave them here for days untended, because o’ painters and bears.”

The whole of the meadow rippled, the ripened heads of millions of grass-stems in movement catching morning sun.  Here and there, late butterflies cruised and at the far side of the grass, there was a sudden crash as some large ungulate vanished into the brush, leaving branches swaying in its wake.

“A certain amount of competition as well, I see,” she said, nodding toward the place where the animal had disappeared.  She lifted an eyebrow, wanting to ask whether they should not pursue it, but assuming that her father had some good reason why not, since he made no move.

“Aye, some,” he said, and turned to the right, moving along the edge of the trees that rimmed the meadow.  “But deer dinna feed the same way cattle or sheep do, at least not if the pasture’s good.   That was an old buck,” he added off-handedly over his shoulder.  “We dinna want to kill those in autumn, save for need; the meat’s not good so close to rut, and game’s not scarce.”

She raised both brows, but followed without comment.  He turned his head and smiled at her.

“Where there’s one, there are likely more, this time o’ year.  The does begin to gather into wee herds.  It’s no quite rut yet, but the bucks are thinkin’ on it.  He kens well enough where they are.”  He nodded in the direction of the vanished deer.  “We’ll follow him.”

She suppressed a smile, recalling some of her mother’s uncensored opinions on men and the functions of testosterone.  He saw it, though, and gave her a half-rueful look of amusement, knowing what she was thinking, and the fact that he did sent a small sweet pang through her heart.

“Aye, well, your mother’s right about men,” he said with a shrug.  “Keep it in mind, a nighean,” he added, more seriously.  He turned then, lifting his face into the breeze. “They’re upwind of us, we won’t get near, save we climb up and come down on them from the far side.”

She nodded, and checked the priming on her gun.  She was carrying the family fowling piece, while her father had his good rifle.  She wouldn’t fire on any small game, though, while there was a chance of spooking deer nearby. She had so loved to hunt with him, before, and never thought such a day would come again.

It was a steep climb, and she found herself puffing, sweat starting to purl behind her ears in spite of the cool day.   Her father climbed, as ever, like a mountain goat, without the slightest appearance of strain, but—to her chagrin—noticed her struggling and beckoned her aside, onto a small ledge.

“We’re in nay hurry, a nighean,” he said, smiling at her.  “There’s water here.”  He reached out, with an obvious tentativeness, and touched her flushed cheek, quickly taking back his hand.

“Sorry, lass,” he said, and smiled.  “I’m no used yet to the notion that ye’re real.”

“I know what you mean,” she said softly, and swallowing, reached out and touched his face, warm and clean-shaven, slanted eyes deep blue as hers.

“Och,” he said under his breath, and gently brought her into his arms.  She hugged him tight and they stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.







This is special...

Excerpt for fold of book"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9  #laterthisyear   #Godwillingandthecreekdontrise   #backcovercopy

     At the moment, aside from madly writing the last two sections of the book (and juggling the pieces of the third), I'm messing with some sort of back-cover copy for the UK paperback versions of BEES (which might also be part of the flap copy for the US hardcover).

    This is always a problem with my books, for obvious reasons. <g>

      My lovely editor made a valiant stab at it, but it ended up as a two-sentence description of each of the main characters, first sentence stating the character's position at the end of the last book, and the second giving (what appears to be) their main motivation in this one.  It's a perfectly good summary, but not real gripping in an "and _then_ what happens?" sort of way.

     I am, needless to say, not spending a Whole Lot of time on the problem, but as I juggle my pieces, it occurs to me that it may best by solved by the same technique I've always used to sell my books:  free samples.

    I.e., I'm contemplating just using a brief (as in 250 words or less) excerpt from the actual text that--while not telling you a lot about the actual plot, would shove you forcibly into it.  Here's one of my candidates:  

[SPOILER alert just in case, because it is part of the actual text--though in fact there's nothing whatever spoilerish in the text itself...]

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2019 Diana Gabaldon]
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"          Jamie read the letter through twice, his lips tightening at the same place, halfway down the first page—and then again, at the end.  It wasn’t actually unusual for him to react to one of John’s letters that way, but when he did, it was normally because it held unwelcome news of the war, of William, or of some incipient action on the part of the British government that might be about to result in Jamie’s imminent arrest or some other domestic inconvenience.

          This, however, was the first letter John had sent in nearly two years—since before Jamie’s return from the dead to find me married to Lord John Grey, and before he had punched John in the eye as a result of this news and inadvertently caused his lordship to be arrested and nearly hanged by the American militia.  Well, turnabout was fair play, I supposed…

          No point in putting it off.

          “What does John have to say?” I asked, keeping my voice pleasantly neutral.  "

166 words, not bad...










Titles








Excerpt 'A bit of trouble'

Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE, #BookNine, #Noitsnotfinished, #nowherenear, #maybelate2018, #maybenot, #whoknows, #gowatchtheshow

I was startled from a solid sleep by Jamie exploding out of bed beside me. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but as usual, it left me sitting bolt upright amid the quilts, dry-mouthed and completely dazed, heart hammering like a drill-press.

He was already down the stairs; I heard the thump of his bare feet on the last few treads—and above that sound, frenzied pounding on the front door. A ripple of unrest spread through the house: rustling bedclothes, sleepy voices, opening doors.

I shook my head violently and flung off the covers. Him or me? was the first coherent thought that formed out of the fog drifting through my brain. Night alarms like this might be news of violence or misadventure, and sometimes of a nature that required all hands, like a house fire or someone having unexpectedly met with a hunting panther at a spring. More often, though…

I heard Jamie’s voice, and the panic left me. It was low, questioning, with a cadence that meant he was soothing someone. Someone else was talking, in high-pitched agitation, but it wasn’t the sound of disaster.

Me, then. Childbirth or accident? My mind had suddenly resurfaced and was working clearly, even while my body fumbled to and fro, trying to recall what I had done with my grubby stockings. Probably birth, in the middle of the night… But the uneasy thought of fire still lurked on the edge of my thoughts.

I had a clear picture in my mind of my emergency kit, and was grateful that I’d thought to refurbish it just before supper. It was sitting ready on the corner of my surgery table. My mind was less clear about other things; I’d put my stays on backward. I yanked them off, flung them on the bed, and went to splash water on my face, thinking a lot of things I couldn’t say out loud, as I could hear children’s feet now pattering across the landing.

I reached the bottom of the stairs belatedly, to find Fanny and Germaine with Jamie, who was talking with a very young girl no more than Fanny’s age, standing barefoot, distraught, and wearing nothing more than a threadbare shift. I didn’t recognize her.

“Ach, here’s Herself now,” Jamie said, glancing over his shoulder. He had a hand on the girl’s shoulder, as though to keep her from flying away. She looked as if she might: thin as a broomstraw, with baby-fine brown hair tangled by the wind, and eyes looking anxiously in every direction for possible help.

“This is Annie Cloudtree, Claire,” he said, nodding toward the girl. “Fanny, will ye find a shawl or something to lend the lass, so she doesna freeze?”

“I don’t n-need—” the girl began, but her arms were wrapped around herself and she was shivering so hard that her words shook.

“Her mother’s with child,” Jamie interrupted her, looking at me. “And maybe having a bit of trouble with the birth.”

“We c-can’t p-pay—”

“Don’t worry about that,” I said, and nodding to Jamie, took her in my arms. She was small and bony and very cold, like a half-feathered nestling fallen from a tree.

“It will be all right,” I said softly to her, and smoothed down her hair. “We’ll go to your mother at once. Where do you live?”

She gulped and wouldn’t look up, but was so cold she clung to me for warmth.

“I don’t know. I m-mean—I don’t know how to say. Just—if you can come with me, I can take you back?” She wasn’t Scottish.

I looked at Jamie for information—I’d not heard of the Cloudtrees; they must be recent settlers—but he shook his head, one brow raised. He didn’t know them, either.

“Did ye come afoot, lassie?” he asked, and when she nodded, asked, “Was the sun still up when ye left your home?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. ‘Twas well dark, we’d all gone to bed. Then my mother’s pains came on sudden, and…” She gulped again, tears welling in her eyes.

“And the moon?” Jamie asked, as though nothing were amiss. “Was it up when ye set out?”

His matter-of-fact tone eased her a little, and she took an audible breath, swallowed, and nodded.

“Well up, sir. Two hands-breadths above the edge of the earth.”

“What a very poetic turn of phrase,” I said, smiling at her. Fanny had come with my old gardening shawl—it was ratty and had holes, but had been made of thick new wool to start with. I took it from Fanny with a nod of thanks and wrapped it round the girl’s shoulders.

Jamie had stepped out on the porch, presumably to see where the moon now was. He stepped back in, and nodded to me.

“The brave wee lass has been abroad in the night alone for about three hours, Sassenach. Miss Annie—is there a decent trail that leads to your father’s place?”

Her soft brow scrunched in concern—she wasn’t sure what “decent” might mean in this context—but she nodded uncertainly.

“There’s a trail,” she said, looking from Jamie to me in hopes that this might be enough.

“We’ll ride, then,” he said to me, over her head. “The moon’s bright enough.” And I think we’d best hurry, his expression added. I rather thought he was right.








Excerpt "Hoola hoops"

#DailyLines, #BookNine, #WorkingPeacefullyThisWeek, #SoreFootButOK

It was a sapphire, a raw one. A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail. He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.

"Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not," Buck said, nodding at it.

"I think not. I hope not. I wish I could say I can’t take it." Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him. "Thank you, a charaidh. Where did ye find it?"

"Ach…" Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand. "Just saw it and picked it up, ken?"

"Holy Lord," Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid. And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones… he’d declined, thank God. But—"

"You didn’t," he said to Buck. "Tell me ye didn’t."

"Ye keep saying that," Buck said, frowning at him. "I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies. A poor example for the bairns, aye?"

He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success. Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.

"Me, a poor example? And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!"

"And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?"

"I—" His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard. The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass. "No. I’m not. But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them. To risk your bloody neck for us!" That’s my job, he wanted to say, but didn’t.

"May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb." Buck gave him a direct stare. "Ye need it, aye? Take it, then." Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth. "With my blessing."

On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist. She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.

"Look, Daddy!" she called. "Hula hoop!"

Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern. Roger shook his head slightly — don’t say anything — and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.

"What’s a hula hoop, then?" Buck asked quietly, behind him






Excerp "Claire wakin up rough"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine  #comingalongreallywellthankyou  #noIlltellyouwhenitsdone   #relax   #breathe  #gowatchSeasonsOneTwoandThree  #thenrereadallthebooks  #eatchocolate  #itsgoodforyou

 The sun was barely up, but Jamie was long gone.   I’d wakened briefly when he kissed my forehead, whispered that he was going hunting with Brianna, then kissed my lips and vanished into the chilly dark.   I waked again two hours later in the warm nest of old quilts—these donated by the Crombies and the Lindsays—that served us for a bed and sat up, cross-legged in my shift, combing leaves and grass-heads out of my hair with my fingers, and enjoying the rare feeling of waking slowly, rather than with the usual sensation of having been shot from a cannon.   

I supposed, with a pleasant little thrill, that once the house was habitable and the MacKenzies, along with Germain and Fanny, all ensconced within, mornings would once more resemble the exodus of bats from Carlsbad Caverns—were there bats there now?  I wondered.

 A bright-red ladybug dropped out of my hair and down the front of my shift, which put an abrupt end to my ruminations.  I leapt up and shook the beetle out into the long grass by the Big Log, went into the bushes for a private moment and came out with a bunch of fresh mint.   There was just enough water left in the bucket for me to have a cup of tea, so I left the mint on the flat surface Jamie had adzed at one end of the huge fallen poplar log to serve as worktable and food preparation space, and went to build up the fire and set the kettle inside the ring of blackened stones.

 At the far edge of the clearing below a thin spiral of smoke rose from the chimney like a snake out of a charmer’s basket; someone had poked up their smoored fire as well.

 Who would be my first visitor this morning?  Germain, perhaps; he’d slept at the Higgins cabin last night—but he wasn’t an early riser by temperament, any more than I was.  Fanny was a good distance away, with the Widow Donaldson and her enormous brood; she’d be along later.

 It would be Roger, I thought, and felt a lifting of my heart.  Roger and the children.

The fire was licking at the tin kettle; I lifted the lid and shredded a good handful of mint leaves into the water—first shaking the stems to dislodge any hitch-hikers.  The rest I bound with a twist of thread and hung among the other herbs hanging from the rafters of my make-shift surgery—this consisting of four poles with a lattice laid across the top, covered with hemlock branches for shade and shelter.   I had two stools—one for me and one for the patient of the moment, and a small, crudely-built table to hold whatever implements I needed to have easily to hand.

Jamie had put up a canvas lean-to beside the shelter, to provide privacy for such cases as required it, and also storage for food or medicines kept in raccoon-proof casks, jars or boxes.   

It was rural, rustic, and very romantic.  In a bug-ridden, grimy-ankled, exposed to the elements, occasional creeping sensation on the back of the neck indicating that you were being eyed up by something considering eating you sort of way, but still.

I cast a longing look at the new foundation.  

The house would have two handsome stone chimneys; one had been halfway built, and stood sturdy as a monolith amid the framing timbers of what would shortly—I hoped—be our kitchen and dining space.  Jamie had assured me that he would wall in the large room and tack on a temporary canvas roof within the week, so we could resume sleeping and cooking indoors.  The rest of the house…

That might depend on whatever grandiose notions he and Brianna had developed during their conversation the night before.  I seemed to recall wild remarks about concrete and indoor plumbing, which I rather hoped wouldn’t take root, at least not until we had a roof over our heads and a floor under our feet.  On the other hand…

The sound of voices on the path below indicated that my expected company had arrived, and I smiled.  On the other hand, we’d have two more pairs of experienced and competent hands to help with the building.

Jem’s disheveled red head popped into view and he broke into a huge grin at sight of me.

“Grannie!” he shouted, and brandished a slightly mangled corn-dodger.  “We brought you breakfast!”


Part two


#DailyLines  #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #backtotheRidge    #madbackwoodskilz   #ifyourewonderingnoitsnotdone  #Illtellyouwhenwegetclose   #NotClose   #butgoingwell

 They had brought me breakfast, lavish by my present standards: two fresh corn dodgers, warm griddled sausage patties wrapped in layers between burdock leaves [ck.], a boiled egg, still hot, and a quarter-inch of Amy’s last year’s huckleberry jam, in the bottom of its jar.

 “Missus Higgins says to send back the empty jar,” Jemmy informed me, handing it over.  Only one eye was on the jar; the other was on the Big Log, which had been hidden by darkness the night before.  “Wow! What kind of tree is that?”

 “Poplar,” I said, closing my eyes in ecstasy at the first bite of sausage.  The Big Log was roughly sixty feet long.  It had been a good bit longer, before Jamie had scavenged wood from the top for building and fires.  “Your grandfather says it was likely more than a hundred feet tall before it fell.”

 Mandy was trying to get up onto the log; Jem gave her a casual boost, then leaned over to look down the length of the trunk, mostly smooth and pale, but scabbed here and there with remnants of bark and odd little forests of toadstools and moss.

 “Did it blow down in a storm?”

 “Yes,” I said.  “The top had been struck by lightning, but I don’t know whether that was the same storm that knocked it down.  It might have died because of the lightning and then the next big storm blew it over.  Mandy, be careful there!” 

 She’d scrambled to her feet and was walking along the trunk, arms stretched out like a gymnast, one foot in front of the other.  The trunk was a good five feet in diameter at that point; there was plenty of room atop it, but it would be a hard bump if she fell off.

 “Here, sweetheart.”  Roger, who had been looking at the house with interest, came over and plucked her off the log.   “Why don’t you and Jem go gather wood for Grannie?  D’ye remember what good firewood looks like?”

       “Aye, of course.”  Jem looked lofty.  “I’ll show her how.”

 “I knows how!” Mandy said, glowering at him.

 “You have to look out for snakes,” he informed her.

 She perked up at once, pique forgotten.

 “Wanna see a snake!”

 “Jem—“ Roger began, but Jemmy rolled his eyes.  “_I_ know, Dad,” he said.  “If I find a little one, I’ll let her touch it, but not if it’s got rattles or a cotton mouth.”

 “Oh, Jesus,” Roger muttered, watching them go off hand in hand.

 I swallowed the last of the corn dodgers, licked sugary jam from the corner of my mouth and gave him a sympathetic look.

 “Nobody died the last time you lived here,” I reminded him.
   






Excerpt 'Rachel'

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine   #IanAndRachel    #AndAFewMohawks   #AndABaby   #Privacy

Eats Turtles swallowed the last of his turkey hash and gave a loud belch of appreciation in Rachel’s direction, then handed her his plate, saying, “More,” before resuming the story he had been telling between bites.  Fortunately, it was mostly in Mohawk, as the parts that had been in English appeared to deal with one of his cousins who had suffered a very comical partial disembowelment following an encounter with an enraged moose.

 Rachel took the plate and refilled it, staring very hard at the back of Eats Turtles’ head and envisioning the light of Christ glowing within him.   Owing to an orphaned and penurious childhood, she had had considerable practice in such discernment, and was able to smile pleasantly at Turtles as she placed the newly-filled plate at his feet, not to interrupt his gesticulations.

 On the good side, she reflected, glancing into the cradle, the men’s conversation had lulled Oggy into a stupor.  With a glance that caught Ian’s eye, and a nod toward the cradle, she went out to enjoy a mother’s rarest pleasure:  ten minutes alone in the privy.

Emerging relaxed in body and mind, she was disinclined to go back into the cabin.  She thought briefly of walking down to the Big House to visit Brianna and Claire—but Jenny had gone down herself when it became apparent that the Mohawks would spend the night at the Murrays’ cabin.  Rachel was very fond of her mother-in-law, but then, she adored Oggy and loved Ian madly—and she really didn’t want the company of any of them just now.

 The evening was cold, but not bitter, and she had a thick woolen shawl.   A gibbous moon was rising amid a field of glorious stars, and the peace of Heaven seemed to breathe from the autumn forest, pungent with conifers and the softer scent of dying leaves.  She made her way carefully up the path that led to the well, paused for a drink of cold water, and then went on, coming out a quarter-hour later on the edge of a rocky outcrop that gave a view of endless mountains and valleys, by day.  By night, it was like sitting on the edge of eternity.

Peace seeped into her soul with the chill of the night, and she sought it, welcomed it.  But there was still an unquiet part of her mind, and a burning in her heart, at odds with the vast quiet that surrounded her.

Ian would never lie to her.  He’d said so, and she believed him.  But she wasn’t fool enough to think that meant he told her everything she might want to know.  And she very much wanted to know more about Wakyo’tenensnohnsa, the Mohawk woman Ian had called Emily…and loved.

 So now she was perhaps alive, perhaps not.  If she did live…what might be her circumstances?

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder how old Emily might be, and what she looked like.  Ian hadn’t ever said; she hadn’t ever asked.  It hadn’t seemed important, but now…

 Well.  When she found him alone, she would ask, that’s all.   And with determination, she turned her face to the moon and her heart to her inner light and prepared to wait.

[end section]

 It was maybe an hour later when the darkness near her moved and Ian was suddenly there beside her, a warm spot in the night.

 “Is Oggy awake?” she asked, drawing her shawl around her.

 “Nay, lass, he’s sleeping like a stone.”

 “And thy friends?”

 “Much the same.  I gave them a bit of Uncle Jamie’s whisky.”

 “How very hospitable of thee, Ian.”

 “That wasna exactly my intention, but I suppose I should take credit for it, if it makes ye think more highly of me.”

 He brushed the hair behind her ear, bent his head and kissed the side of her neck, making his intention clear.  She hesitated for the briefest instant, but then ran her hand up under his shirt and gave herself over, lying back on her shawl beneath the star-strewn sky.

 _Let it be just us, once more_, she thought.  _If he thinks of her, let him not do it now_.

 And so it was that she didn’t ask what Emily looked like, until the Mohawks finally left, three days later.







Excerpt "they are in sanctuary 

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine   #Nopenopenopitynopenopenope   #Illtellyouwhenitsdone  #InHonorOf30YEARSDoingThisStuff   #RogerWakesUpInANewOldPlace
#MinorSpoilers

[Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon]

[On March 6th, 1988, I started writing a book for practice.  That turned out to be OUTLANDER, and _now_ look where we are….!    So in honor of the occasion <cough>, here is (what I think will be) Roger’s first scene from BEES…]

 Sheer exhaustion made Roger sleep like the dead, in spite of the fact that the MacKenzies’ bed consisted of two ragged quilts that Amy Higgins had hastily dragged out of her piecework bag, these laid over a week’s worth of the Higginses ‘dirty laundry, and the MacKenzies’  outer clothing as blankets.  It was a warm bed, though, with the heat of the smoored fire on one side, and the body heat of two children and a snuggly wife on the other, and he fell into sleep like a man falling down a well, with time for no more than the briefest prayer—though a profound one--of gratitude.

 _We made it. Thanks._  

  He woke to darkness and the smell of burnt wood and a freshly-used chamber-pot, feeling a sudden chill behind him.  He had lain down with his back to the fire, but had rolled over during the night, and now saw the sullen glow of the last embers a couple of feet from his face, faint crimson veins in a bank of charcoal and gray ash.  He put a hand behind him; Brianna was gone.   There was a vague heap that must be Jem and Mandy at the far side of the quilt and the rest of the cabin was still somnolent, the air thick with heavy breathing.

 “Bree?” he whispered, raising himself on one elbow.  She was close—a solid shadow with her bottom braced against the wall by the hearth, one foot raised as she pulled on a stocking.

 She put down the foot and crouched beside him, fingers brushing his face.

 “I’m going hunting with Da,” she whispered, bending close.  “Mama will watch the kids, if you have things to do today.”

 “Aye.  Where did ye get—“ he ran a hand down the side of her hip; she was wearing a thick hunting shirt and loose breeches, much patched; he could feel the roughness of the stitching under his palm.

 “They’re Da’s,” she said, and kissed him, the tinge of ember-light glisking in her hair.  “Go back to sleep.  It won’t be dawn for another hour.”

 He watched her step lightly through the bodies on the floor, boots in her hand, and a cold draft snaked through the room as the door opened and closed soundlessly behind her.   Bobby Higgins said something in a sleep-slurred voice, and one of the little boys sat up, said “What?”in a clear, startled voice and then flopped back into his quilt, dormant once more.

 The fresh air vanished into the comfortable fug and the cabin slept.  Roger didn’t.  He lay on his back, feeling peace, relief, excitement and trepidation in roughly equal proportions.

 They really had made it.

 All of them.  He kept counting them, compulsively.  All four of them.  Here, and safe.

Fragmented memories and sensations jostled through his mind; he let them flow through him, not trying to stay them or catch more than an image here and there: The feel of a small gold bar in his sweaty hand, the lurch of his stomach when he’d dropped it and it slid out of his reach across the tilting deck.  The warm steam of parritch with whisky on it, fortification against a freezing Scottish morning.  Brianna hopping carefully down a flight of stairs on one foot, the bandaged one lifted and the words of “My Dame Hath a Lame, Tame Crane” coming irresistibly to his mind.  The smell of Buck’s hair, acrid and unwashed, as they embraced each other on the edge of a dock and a final farewell.  Cold, endless days and nights in the lurching hold of the Constance on their way to Charles Town, the four of them huddled in a corner, deafened by the smash of water against the hull, too seasick to be hungry, too exhausted anymore even to be terrified, hypnotized instead by the rising water in the hold, watching it inch higher, splashing them with each sickening roll, trying to share their pitiful store of body heat to keep the kids alive…

 He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, put his hands on the solid wooden floor to either side, closed his eyes and let it all drain away.

 No looking back.  They’d made their decision, and they’d made it here.  To sanctuary.

 _So now, what?_

 He’d lived in this cabin once, for a long time.  Now he supposed he’d build a new one; Jamie had told him last night that the land Jamie had given him was still his, registered in his name.

 A small glow of anticipation rose in his heart.   The day lay before him; what should he do first?

 “Daddy!” a voice with a lot of spit whispered loudly in his ear.  “Daddy, I haveta go potty!”

 He sat up smiling, pushing tangled cloaks and shirts out of the way.   Mandy was hopping from foot to foot in agitation, a small black chickadee, solid against the shadows.

 “Aye, sweetheart,” he whispered back, and took her hand, warm and sticky.  “I’ll take ye to the privy.  Try not to step on anybody.”







Excerpt "William"

#DailyLines  #Book9  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #William

“Don’t be a fool,” he muttered to himself, “You know Papa wouldn’t…”  “_Papa_” stuck like a thorn in his throat and he swallowed.

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 the other gentleman?”

 “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.








Excerpt "Warning Fanny"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #Noitsnothelastone   #ProbablyTen   #PlusaPrequelAboutBrianEllenandMurtagh  #Later  #LOTSLater  #ThisOneLaterThisYear  #IHope
#HappyEaster !!

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

 “Mr. Fraser was a Jacobite—do you know what that means?”   Fanny nodded uncertainly.

 “The Jacobites were supporters of James Stuart, and fought against the king of England,” I explained.  “They lost that war.”   A hollow place opened under my ribs as I spoke.   So few words for such a shattering of so very many lives.

 “Mr. Fraser went to prison afterward; he wasn’t able to take care of William.  Lord John was his friend, and he raised William as his son, because neither of them thought that Mr. Fraser would ever be released, and Lord John thought that he would never have children of his own.”  I caught the distant echo of Frank’s advice, like a spider’s whisper behind the empty hearth:  _Always stick to the truth, as far as possible_…

 “Was Lord John wounded?” Fanny asked.  “In the war?”

 “Wounded—oh, because he couldn’t have children, you mean?  I don’t know—he was certainly wounded, though.” I’d seen his scars.  I cleared my throat.  “Let me tell you something, Fanny.  About myself.”

 Her eyes widened in curiosity.  They were a soft dove-gray, gone almost black as her pupils went large in the shadows of the kitchen.

 “I fought in a war, too,” I said.  “Not the same war; another one, in a different country—before I met either Mr. Fraser or Lord John.  I was a—healer; I took care of wounded men, and I spent a lot of time among soldiers, and in bad places.”  I took a breath, fragments of those times and places coming back.  I knew the memories must show on my face, and I let them.

 “I’ve seen very bad things,” I said simply.  “I know you have, too.”

 Her chin trembled slightly and she looked away, her soft mouth drawing in on itself.  I reached out slowly and touched her shoulder.

 “You can say anything to me,” I said, with slight emphasis on ‘anything’.  “You don’t ever have to tell me—or Mr. Fraser—anything that you don’t want to.  But if there are things that you want to talk about—your sister, maybe, or anything else—you can.   Anyone in the family—me, Mr. Fraser, Brianna or Mr. MacKenzie…you can tell any of us anything you need to.  We won’t be shocked—“  _Actually, we probably would be_, I thought, _but no matter_. “And perhaps we can help, if you’re troubled about anything.  But—“

 She looked up at that, instantly alert, unsettling me a little.  This child had had a lot of experience in detecting and interpreting tones of voice, probably as a matter of survival.

 “But,” I repeated firmly, “not everyone who lives on the Ridge has had such experiences, and many of them have never met anyone who has.  Most of them have lived in small villages in Scotland, many of them aren’t educated.  They _would_ be shocked, perhaps, if you told them very much about…where you lived.  How you and your sister—“

 “They’ve never met whores?” she said, and blinked.  “I think some of the men must have.”

 “Doubtless you’re right,” I said, trying to keep my grip on the conversation.  “But it’s the women who talk.”

 She nodded soberly.  I could see a thought come to her; she looked away for an instant, blinked, then looked back at me, a thoughtful squint to her eyes.

 “What?” I said.

 “Mrs. MacDonald’s mother says you’re a witch,” she replied.  “Mrs. MacDonald tried to make her stop, when she saw I was listening, but the old lady doesn’t stop talking about anything, ever, except when she’s eating.”

 I’d met Janet MacDonald’s mother, Granny Campbell, once or twice, and was not overly surprised to hear this.

 “I don’t suppose she’s the only one,” I said, a little tersely.  “But I’m suggesting that perhaps you should be careful about what you say to people outside the family about your life in Philadelphia.”

 She nodded, accepting what I’d said.

 “It doesn’t matter that Granny Campbell says you’re a witch,” she said thoughtfully.  “Because Mr. MacDonald is afraid of Mr. Fraser.  He tried to make Granny stop talking about you,” she added, and shrugged.   “Anyway, nobody’s afraid of me.”

 _Give them time, child_, I thought, eyeing her.







Excerpt "Green eggs and ham video version"

“I want _my_ book,” Mandy said firmly. “Gimme, Daddy. Please?” she added, seeing her mother’s mouth open. Bree shut her mouth and smiled, and Roger peered into the sack, then withdrew…

A bright orange book that made me blink.

“What” said Jamie leaning forward to peer at it. He looked at me eyebrows raised. I shrugged. He’d find out soon enough.

“Read it, Mummy.” Mandy curled into her mother’s side. Thrusting the book into Bree’s hand.

“Okay,” Bree said, and opened it. Do you like green eggs and ham?

“Do you like them, Sam I am?”

“What,” said Fanny incredulously and moved to peer over Bree’s shoulder closely accompanied by Germaine.

“What is that” Germaine asked fascinated.

“Sam I Am,” Mandy said crossly and jabbed a finger at the page. He’s gots a sign.

“Ah oui and what’s the other thing then, a ‘Who are you’?” That made Fanny, Jemmy, and Roger laugh, which turned Mandy incandescent with rage. She might not have the red hair, I thought, but she had the Fraser temper in spades.

“Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP,” she shrieked and scrambling to her feet made for Germaine with the obvious intent of disemboweling him with her bare hands.

“Whoa.” Roger snared her deftly and lifted her off her feet. “Calm down, sweetheart. He didn’t mean…” 
I could have told him but if he hadn’t learned it from sharing a house with assorted Frasers for years it wouldn’t do any good to tell him now, that the very last thing you should say to one in full roar is “calm down.” Like putting out an oil fire on your stove by throwing a glass of water on it.

“He DID!” Mandy bellowed struggling madly in her father’s grip. “I hate him. He ruined it. It’s all ruined. I hate him. I hate you too.” She started kicking dangerously in the vicinity of her father’s crotch and he instinctively held her out away from him.

Jamie reached out and wrapped an arm around her middle, gathered her in and put a big hand on the nape of her neck. 
“Hush _leannan_,” and she did. She was panting like a little steam engine, red faced and teary, but she stopped.

“Let’s step outside for a moment, shall we,” he said to her and nodded to the rest of the assembled company. “No one’s to touch her book while we’re gone do ye hear?” There was a faint murmur of assent succeeded by total silence as Jamie and Mandy disappeared into the night.

“The cookies!” smelling the strong scent of incipient scorching, I darted to the oven, snatched the girdle out, and hastily flipped the cookies onto the big plate - the only pottery dish we owned at the moment but capable of holding anything up to a small turkey.

“Are the cookies okay?” Jem with a total disregard for his sister’s immediate prospects hurried over to take a look. 
“Yes” I assured him, “a bit brown at the edges but perfectly fine.”

Fanny had come too but was less intent on gluttony. 
“Will Mr. Fraser whip her?” she asked looking anxious. “No” Germaine assured her. “She’s too little.” 
“Oh no she’s not” Jemmy assured him with wary glance at his mother whose face was distinctly flushed if not quite as red as Mandy’s.

All the children clustered around me, whether out of interest in cookies or out of self-preservation. I lifted an eyebrow at Roger who went and sat down beside Brianna. I turned by back to allow a little marital privacy and sent Fanny and Jem out to fetch the big pitcher of milk presently hanging in the well. And I did hope none of the local frogs had decided to avail themselves in defiance of the stone-weighted cloth I had draped over the pitcher’s mouth. 
“I’m sorry, Granny” Germaine edged close to me low-voiced. “I didn’t mean to cause a stramash, truly.” 
“I know, sweetheart. And everyone knows except Mandy, and Grandda will explain it to her.” 
“Oh.” He relaxed at once having total faith in his grandfather’s ability to charm anything from an unbroken horse to a rabid hedgehog. 
“Go get the mugs” I told him. “Everyone will be back soon.” 
The tin mugs had been rinsed after dinner left to dry upside down on the stoop.

Germaine hurried out carefully not looking at Bree. Germaine thought she was angry with him. But it was apparent to me she was upset not angry. And no wonder I thought sympathetically. She tried so hard for so long to keep Jem and Mandy safe and happy. Luckily, Roger’s instincts as a husband were quite good. He had his arm around her and her head resting on his shoulder and was murmuring things to her too low for me to catch the words, but the tone of it was love and reassurance not cajolery, and the lines of her face were smoothing out.

I heard soft voices in the other direction through the open kitchen door. Jamie and Mandy evidently pointing out stars that they liked to each other. I smiled, arranging the cookies on the platter. He probably _could_ charm a rabid hedgehog, I thought.

With his own good instincts Jamie had waited till the mob had reassembled and was eagerly sniffing the warm cookies. Then he carried Mandy back in and deposited her among the other children without comment.

“Twenty-seven?” He said, assessing the array at a glance. “Yes. How do you do that? “ 
Ach, it’s no difficult, Sassenach. He leaned over the platter and closed his eyes inhaling beatifically. “It’s easier than goats and sheep after all, cookies dinna have legs.” 
“Leg” said Fanny puzzled. Oh aye, he said opening his eyes and smiling at her. To know the number of goats you have you just count the legs and divide by four. The adult members of the audience groaned. Germaine and Jem, who had learnt division, giggled. “That” Fanny began and then stopped frowning.

“Sit.” I said briskly. Jem pour the milk, please. And how many cookies does each person get Mr. Know-It-All?” “Three” the boys chorused. A dissenting opinion from Mandy who thought everyone should have five was quelled without incident, and the whole room relaxed into a quiet orgy of cold, creamy milk and sweet-scented crumbs.

“Now then, Jamie paused carefully brushing crumbs off his shirt front into his palm and carefully licking them off. “Now then” he repeated, “Amanda tells me she can read her book by herself. Will you maybe read it to us _a leannan_?” 
“Yes.” And with only a brief interruption for the wiping of sticky hands and face, she was ensconced once more in her mother’s arms but this time the vivid orange book was in her own lap. She opened the cover and glared at her audience. “Everybody shut up” she said firmly. “I read.”

Another part, or extended



Excerpt "cookies and Mandy's book"

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 We’d eaten supper on our new front stoop, there being no table or benches for the kitchen as yet, but for the sake of ceremony, I had made molasses cookie dough early in the day and set it aside.    Everyone trooped inside and unrolled their miscellaneous bedding—Jamie and I did have a bed, but the MacKenzies would all be sleeping on pallets before the fire—and sat down to watch with keen anticipation as I dropped the cookies onto my girdle and slid the cool black iron circle into the glowing warmth of the Dutch oven.

 “How long, how long, how long, Grannie?”  Mandy was behind me, standing on tiptoes to see.   I turned and lifted her up, so she could see the girdle and cookies in the glowing shadows of the brick cubbyhole built into the wall of the huge hearth.  The fire we had lighted at dawn had been fed all day, and the brick surround was radiating heat—and would, all night.

 “See how the dough is in balls?  And you can feel how hot it is—don’t _ever_ put your hand in the oven—but the heat will make those balls flatten out and then turn brown, and when they do, the cookies will be done.  It takes about ten minutes,” I added, setting her down.  “It’s a new oven, though, so I’ll have to keep checking.”

 “Goody, goody, goody, goody!”  She hopped up and down with delight, then threw herself into Brianna’s arms.  “Mama!  Read me a story ‘til da cookies are done?”

 Bree’s eyebrows lifted and she glanced at Roger, who smiled and shrugged.

 “Why not?” he said, and went to rootle through the pile of miscellaneous belongings stacked against the kitchen wall.

 “Ye brought a book for the bairns?  That’s braw,” Jamie said to Bree.  “Where did ye get it?”

 “Do they actually make books now for children Mandy’s age?” I asked, looking down at her.   Bree had said she could read a bit already, but I’d never seen anything in an 18th century printshop that looked like it would be comprehensible—let alone appealing—to a three-year-old.

 “Well, more or less,” Roger said, pulling Bree’s big canvas bag out of the pile.  “That is, there were—are, I mean--a few books that are _intended_ for children.  Though the only titles that come to mind at the moment are _Hymns for the Amusement of Children, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes_, and _Descriptions of Three Hundred Animals_.”

 “What sorts of animals?”  Jamie asked, looking interested.

 “No idea,” Roger confessed.  “I’ve not seen any of those books; just read the titles on a list in a scholarly journal.”

 “Did you ever print any books for children, in Edinburgh?” I asked Jamie, who shook his head.  “Well, what did you read when you were in school?”

 “As a bairn?  The Bible,” he said, as though this should be self-evident. “And the almanac.  After we learnt the ABC, I mean.  Later we did a bit of Latin.”

 “I want _my_ book,” Mandy said firmly.  “Gimme, Daddy.  Please?”  she added, seeing her mother’s mouth open.  Bree shut her mouth and smiled, and Roger peered into the sack, then withdrew…







Excerpt Random firefly

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

 Sometime later, we lay curled together, naked in the cool night, happy in the warmth of each other’s body.  The moon was coming down in the west, a sliver of silver that let the stars shine bright.   The pale canvas rustled and murmured overhead, the scents of fir and oak and cypress surrounded us, and a random firefly, distracted from its business by a passing wind-current, landed on the pillow by my head and sat for a moment, its abdomen pulsing with a regular, cool green light.

 “_Oidche mhath, a charaidh_,” Jamie said to it.  It waved its antennae in an amiable fashion and sailed off, circling down toward the distant flicker of its comrades on the ground.

 “I wish we could keep our bedroom like this,” I said wistfully, watching its tail-light disappear into the darkness below.  “It’s so lovely, being part of the night.”

 “Nay so much when it rains.”  Jamie lifted his chin toward our canvas ceiling.  “Dinna fash, though; I’ll have a solid roof on before snow flies.”

 “I suppose you’re right,” I said, and laughed.  “Do you remember our first cabin, when it rained and the roof leaked?   You insisted on going up to fix it, _in_ the pouring rain—and stark naked.”

 “Well, and whose fault was that?” he inquired, though without rancor.  “Ye wouldna let me go up in my shirt; what choice did I have?”

 “You being you, none at all.”  I rolled over and kissed him.  “You taste like apple pie.  Is there any left?”

 “No.  I’ll go down and fetch ye a bite, though.”

 I stopped him with a hand on his arm.

 “No, don’t.  I’m not really hungry and I’d rather just stay like this.  Mm?”

 “Mmphm.”

 He rolled toward me, then scooted down the bed and lifted himself between my thighs.

 “What are you doing?” I demanded, as he settled comfortably into position.

 “I should think that was obvious, Sassenach.”

 “But you’ve just been eating apple pie!”

 “It wasna that filling.”

 “That…wasn’t quite what I meant…”  His thumbs were thoughtfully stroking the tops of my thighs and his warm breath was stirring the hairs on my body in a very disturbing way.

 “If ye’re afraid of crumbs, Sassenach, dinna fash—I’ll pick them off after I’ve finished.  Is it baboons ye said that do that?  Or was it fleas?”

 “I don’t _have_ fleas,” was all I could manage in the way of a witty riposte, but he laughed, settled his shoulders and set to work.

 “I like it when ye scream, Sassenach,” he murmured a little later, pausing for breath.  

 “There are children downstairs!” I hissed, fingers buried in his hair.

 “Well, try to sound like a catamount, then…” 

                       






Excerpt "Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches

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[In honor of March 6th, because today was my thirty-first anniversary as a novelist.  On March 6th, 1988, I began to write my first novel—in order to learn how.  I’m still learning, but you know…so far, so good….]

No one went to the Old Garden, as the family called it.   The people on the Ridge called it the Witch-child’s Garden, though not often in my hearing.   I wasn’t sure whether “witch-child” was meant to refer to Malva Christie herself, or to her baby boy.  Both of them had died in the garden, in the midst of blood—and in my company.  She had been no more than nineteen.

I never said the name aloud, but to me, it was Malva’s Garden.   

 For a time, I hadn’t been able to go up to it without a sense of waste and terrible sorrow, but I did go there now and then.  To remember.  To pray, sometimes.  And frankly, if some of the more hidebound Presbyterians of the Ridge had seen me on some of these occasions, talking aloud to the dead or to God, they would have been quite sure they had the right name, but the wrong witch.

 But the woods had their own slow magic and the garden was returning to them, healing under grass and moss, blood turning to the crimson bloom of bee-balm, and its sorrow fading into peace.

 Despite the creeping transformation, though, some remnants of the garden remained, and small treasures sprang up unexpectedly: there was a stubbornly thriving patch of onions in one corner, a thick growth of comfrey and sorrel fighting back against the grass, and—to my intense delight, several thriving peanut bushes, sprung up from long-buried seeds.  

 I’d found them two weeks before, the leaves just beginning to yellow, and dug them up.   Hung them in the surgery to dry, plucked the dry peanuts from the tangle of dirt and rootlets, and roasted them in the shell, filling the house with memories of circuses and baseball games.

 And tonight, I thought, tipping the cooled nuts into my tin shelling basin, we’d have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper.

[And thanks to Shelley Worden Trotter, for the lovely bee photo--taken on Culloden Field.]







Excerpt "New Roof"

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#unlessIgetrunoverbyabusorsomething

It took a month, rather than two weeks, but by the time the wild grapes began to ripen, Jamie, Roger and Bree—with precarious ceremony and a lot of giggling from the groundlings below—tacked a large sheet of stained white canvas (salvaged and stitched together from pieces of the damaged mainsail of a Royal Navy sloop that was refitting in Wilmington when Fergus happened to be strolling along the quay) onto the framing of the New House’s new kitchen.

We had a roof. Of our own.

I stood under it, looking up, for a long time. Just smiling.

People were trooping in and out, carrying things over from the lean-to, up from the Higginses’ cabin, out of the springhouse, in from the shelter of the Big Log, down from the garden. It reminded me, suddenly and without warning, of making camp on an expedition with my Uncle Lamb: the same higgledy-piggledy bustle of objects, good spirits, relief and happiness, expectation of food and rest.

Jamie set down the pie-safe, easing it gently onto the new pine floor so as not to dent or mar the boards.

“Wasted effort,” he said, smiling as he looked up at me. “A week, and it’ll be as though we’d driven a herd of pigs through it. Why are ye smiling? Does the prospect amuse ye?”

“No, but you do,” I said, and he laughed. He came and put an arm around me and we both looked up.

The canvas shone a brilliant white, and the late-morning sun glowed along its edges. The canvas lifted a little, creaking in the breeze, and multiple stains of sea-water, dirt and what might possibly be the blood of fish or men made shadows that shimmered on the floor around our feet, the shallows of a new life.

“Look,” he whispered in my ear, and nudged my cheek with his chin, directing my gaze.

Fanny stood on the far side of the room, looking up. She was lost in the snowy light, oblivious to Adso the cat, twining about her ankles in hopes of food. She was smiling.







Expert "Life on the ridge" 

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By mid-afternoon, I’d made great progress with my medicaments, treated three cases of poison ivy rash, a dislocated toe (caused by kicking a mule in a fit of temper), and a raccoon bite (non-rabid; the hunter had knocked the coon out of a tree and went to pick it up, only to discover that it wasn’t dead. It was mad, but not in any infectious sense.).

Jamie, though, had done much better. People had come up to the house-site all day, in a steady trickle of neighborliness and curiosity. The women had stayed to chat with me about the MacKenzies and the men had wandered off through the house-site with Jamie, returning with promises to come and lend a day’s labor here and there.

“If Roger Mac and Ian can help me move lumber tomorrow, the Leslies will come next day and give me a hand wi’ the floor joists. We’ll lay the hearth-stone and bless it on Wednesday, Sean McHugh and a couple of his lads will lay the floor with me on Friday, and we’ll get the framing started next day; Tom MacLeod says he can spare me a half-day, and Hiram Crombie’s son Joe says he and his half-brother can help wi’ that as well.” He smiled at me. “If the whisky holds out, ye’ll have a roof over your head in two weeks, Sassenach.”

I looked dubiously from the stone foundation to the cloud-flecked sky overhead.

“A roof?”

“Aye, well, a sheet of canvas, most likely,” he admitted. “Still.” He stood and stretched, grimacing slightly.

“Why don’t you sit down for a bit?” I suggested, eyeing his leg. He was limping noticeably and the leg was a vivid patchwork of red and purple, demarcated by the black stitches of my repair job. “Amy’s left us a jug of beer.”

“Perhaps a wee bit later,” he said. “What’s that ye’re making, Sassenach?”

“I’m going to make up some gall berry ointment for Lizzie Beardsley, and then some gripe-water for her little new one—do you know if he has a name yet?”

“Hubertus.”

“What?”

“Hubertus,” he repeated, smiling. “Or so Kezzie told me, the day before yesterday. It’s in compliment to Monika’s late brother, he says.”

“Oh.” Lizzie’s father, Joseph Wemyss, had taken a kind German lady of a certain age as his second wife, and Monika, having no children of her own, had become a stalwart grandmother to the Beardsleys’ growing brood. “Perhaps they can call him Bertie, for short.”

“Are ye out of the Jesuit Bark, Sassenach?” He lifted his chin in the direction of the open medicine chest I’d set on the ground near him. “Do ye not use that for Lizzie’s tonic?”

“I do,” I said, rather surprised that he’d noticed. “I used the last of it three weeks ago, though, and haven’t heard of anyone going to Wilmington or New Bern who might get me more.”

“Did ye mention it to Roger Mac?”

“No. Why him?” I asked, puzzled.

Jamie leaned back against the cornerstone, wearing one of those overtly patient expressions that’s meant to indicate that the person addressed is not particularly bright. I snorted and flicked a gallberry at him. He caught it and examined it critically.

“Is it edible?”

“There’s very likely a reason why they’re called gall berries.”I said, pouring a large handful of the dark purple berries into my mortar.

“Ah.” He tossed it back at me, and I dodged. “Ye told me yourself, Sassenach, that Roger Mac said to ye yesterday that he meant to come back to the ministering. So,” he went on patiently, seeing no hint of enlightenment on my face, “what would ye do first, if that was your aim?”

I scooped a large glob of pale yellow bear grease from its pot into the mortar, part of my mind debating whether to add a decoction of willow bark, while the rest considered Jamie’s question.

“Ah,” I said in turn, and pointed my pestle at him. “I’d go round to all the people who’d been part of my congregation, so to speak, and let them know that Mack the Knife is back in town.”

He gave me a concerned look, but then shook his head, dislodging whatever image I’d just given him.

“Ye would,” he said. “And maybe introduce yourself to the folk who’ve come to the Ridge since ye left.”

“And within a couple of days, everyone on the Ridge—and probably half the brethren’s choir in Salem—would know about it.”

He nodded amiably. “Aye. And they’d all ken that ye need Jesuit bark, and ye’d likely get it within the month.”






Excerpt "Jamie and Bree hunting"

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Jamie and Brianna came back in mid-afternoon, with two brace of squirrels, fourteen doves, and a large piece of stained and tattered canvas which, unwrapped, revealed something that looked like the remnants of a particularly grisly murder.

“Supper?” I asked, gingerly poking at a shattered bone sticking out of the mass of hair and slick flesh. The smell was iron-raw and butcherous, with a rank note that seemed familiar, but decay hadn’t yet set in to any noticeable degree.

“Aye, if ye can manage, Sassenach.” Jamie came and peered down at the bloody shambles, frowning a little. “I’ll tidy it up for ye. I need a bit o’whisky first, though.”

Given the blood-stains on his shirt and breeks, I hadn’t noticed the equally stained rag tied round his leg, but now saw that he was limping. Raising a brow, I went to the large basket of food, small tools, and minor medical supplies that I lugged up to the house site every morning.

“From what’s left of it, I presume that is—or was—a deer. Did you actually tear it apart with your bare hands?”

Brianna snickered.

“No, but the bear did.” She exchanged complicit glances with her father, who hummed in his throat.

“Bear,” I said, and took a deep breath. I gestured at his shirt. “Right. How much of that blood is yours?”

“No much,” he said tranquilly, and sat down on the big log. “Whisky?”

I looked sharply at Brianna, but she seemed to be intact. Filthy, and with green-gray bird-droppings streaked down her shirt, but intact. Her face glowed with sun and happiness, and I smiled.

“There’s whisky in the tin canteen hanging over there,” I said, nodding toward the big spruce at the far side of the clearing. “Do you want to fetch it for your father while I see what’s left of his leg?”

“Sure. Where are Mandy and Jem?”

“When last seen, they were playing by the creek with Aidan and his brothers. Don’t worry,” I added, seeing her lower lip suck suddenly in. “It’s very shallow there and Fanny said she’d go and keep an eye on Mandy while she’s collecting leeches. Fanny’s very dependable.”

“Mm-hm.” Bree still looked dubious, but I could see her fighting down her maternal impulse to go scoop Mandy out of the creek immediately. “I know I met her last night, but I’m not sure I remember Fanny. Where does she live?”

“With us,” Jamie said, matter-of-factly. “Ow!”

“Hold still,” I said, holding the puncture wound below his knee open with two fingers while I poured saline solution into it. “You don’t want to die of tetanus, do you?”

“And what would ye do if I said yes, Sassenach?”

“The same thing I’m doing right now. I don’t care if you want to or not; I’m not having it.”





Excerpt "Bree Fanny"

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The day was overcast, with a cold wind, and Brianna pulled her mother’s shawl closer round her shoulders as she came under the shadow of the trees that hid the smokehouse. The MacKenzie family had arrived with little more than the clothes they stood up in, and while she had insured that everyone had a good warm cloak, they would be perilously close to nakedness beneath, come laundry day.

Joyful as the reunion with her parents was, there was no escaping the fact that four more mouths to feed—and bodies to clothe—was going to be a severe stress on an already strained domestic economy. Her parents had returned to the Ridge only a few weeks before the advent of the MacKenzies; they hadn’t even a roof of their own over their heads yet. And as for food…

She unlatched the door and breathed deep; the smokeshed’s warmth enfolded her, the thick smell of curing meat cut with a tang of blood and vinegar. Something was cooking in the pit on the far side of the little shed; the haunch of venison her mother had mentioned—that would be for the [ ]. Small curls of gray hickory smoke seeped out and wavered into nothingness around her ankles. Beyond the invisibly cooking meat, though… there was precious little in the smokeshed, bar a string of sausages, a line of dried trout and a single ham hung from a hook—the goal of her journey—and several small kegs that stood to one side.

Going to inspect these, she discovered that, rather than labels, the kegs had pictures chalked onto their tops: a frolicsome fish, a cheerful pig, and a line of skittering quail. She smiled, wondering who had drawn them.

"Miss?" A voice behind her startled her and she turned round to see Fanny, the young girl her parents had somehow acquired in Georgia. The girl looked apprehensive, and Brianna smiled at her.

"Hello. You don’t need to call me ‘Miss,’ you know—my name’s Brianna."

"Yes, M—I mean… all right." Fanny bobbed her head and blushed slightly, but gave Brianna back a shy smile. "Mrs. Fraser sent me to tell you there’s company for supper and will you bring a dozen of the dried fish, and some cream from the spring house, a bit of butter, and an onion from the old root cellar, too." She lifted the empty basket over her arm. "She means to make a chowder, she says."

"Sure." She set the ham down on top of the keg of salted quails and took the basket. "Who’s the company?"

"Two men. One’s called Mr. [ ]; I didn’t hear the other’s name. I’d say they’re men of some thub—substance, though they’ve been traveling some time, from the dirt on them."

"Really? Does Da—my father—know them, do you think?" Fanny had flushed again at her stumble on the word "substance," and Bree thought that she looked like a little flower under her cap, the color just touching her cheek like the shadow inside a rose.

"I don’t know," Fanny said. "Mr. Frath—Fraser," she corrected herself, with a small frown, "isn’t home yet."

Bree nodded, counting fish as she detached them from the line strung across the joists [ck] of the ceiling. She hadn’t seen her father all day; he’d been gone when she’d shepherded Jem and Mandy up to the house-site. Hunting, she supposed, and felt a qualm of guilt over the abortive turkey hunt of the day before.






Excerpt "Bree's letter"

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[date]
Fraser’s Ridge, North Carolina

Dear Lord John—

I’m back. Though I suppose I should say “I have returned!”—more dramatic, you know? I’m smiling as I write this, imagining you saying something about how lack of drama is not one of my failings. Yours either, my friend.

We—my husband, Roger, and our two children, Jeremiah (Jem) and Amanda (Mandy)—have taken up residence on Fraser’s Ridge. (Though it’s more like the residence is taking up existence around us; my father is building his own fortress.) We’ll be here for the foreseeable future, though I know better than most people just how little one can foresee of the future. We’ll leave the details until I see you again.


Mama says you will know perfectly well why I’m writing to you about Denzell Hunter, rather than she doing it. Da says no one needs to write to you, as Dr. Hunter’s wife will surely have written to her father (your brother, if I have things straight?) already, but I agree with Mama that it’s better to write, just in case [plot].

All my best to you and your family—and do please give my best to your son William. I look forward to meeting him—and you, of course!—again.

(Does one sign a letter “our most obedient, humble, etc.” if one is a woman? Surely not….)

Yours truly,

Brianna Randall Fraser MacKenzie (Mrs.)






Excerpt "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  "Claire massages Jamie"

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 “Lie down,” I said firmly, and pointed to my lap.

 “Nay, I’ll be f—“

 “I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said.  “I said, lie down.”

 “I’ve work to—“

 “You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said.  “Lie.  Down.”

 He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue.   He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly.   He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.

 I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait.  I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair.   It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.

 “Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me.   He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ‘til his head rested heavy in my lap.  I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw.   Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp.  He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.

 “Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs.  “Here?”

 “Aye…but…”  He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye.   “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”

 “Mmm.”   I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull.  I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin.   “Well, then.”

 I took my hands away and he let his breath out.

 “It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.

 “It _does_ hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.

 “I know.”  I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air.   “I’ll make it better.”

 He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples.  I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath.   I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished.  For now, though…

 “Do you remember,”  I said, my voice low and quiet.  “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning?  And how his mother came and combed your hair?”

 “Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation.  “She said…she would comb the snakes from my hair.”   Another hesitation.  “She…did.”

 Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it.   How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart.  Guilt, distress…and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.

 There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there.  I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little.  I put my other hand on his shoulder.

 “Shh.   Breathe.”

 His breath came with a small moan, but he did.  I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch.   He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.

 “Let me do that for you,” I said softly.  The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment.  With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.

 “I…no, I dinna want…”  But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin.  Over and over, very slowly.

 I didn’t say anything for quite some time.  He breathed.  The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.

 “Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window.   “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me.   Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better.  But say it.”

 His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh.   After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.

 “Sassenach?” he said softly.

 “Mm?”

 “I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”

 He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.







Excerpt "Rootcellar"

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The root cellar wasn’t a long walk from the smokeshed, but it was on the other side of the big clearing, and the wind, unobstructed by trees or buildings, rushed them from behind, blowing their skirts out before them and whipping Fanny’s cap off her head.

Brianna got a hand up and snatched the scrap of muslin as it whirled past. Her own hair, unbound, was flailing round her face, and so was Fanny’s. They looked at each other, half-blinded, and laughed. Then the first drops of rain began to fall, and they ran, gasping and shrieking for the shelter of the root cellar.

It was dug into the side of a hill, a rough wooden door framed in with stacked stone on either side. The door stuck in its jamb, but Bree freed it with a mighty jerk and they fell inside, damp-spotted but safe from the downpour that now commenced outside.

“Here.” Still breathless, Brianna gave the cap to Fanny. “I don’t think it’ll keep the rain out, though.”

Fanny shook her head, sneezed, giggled, and sneezed again.

“Where’s yours?” she asked, sniffing as she tucked her windblown curls back under the cap.

“I don’t like caps much,” Bree said, and smiled when Fanny blinked. “But I might wear one for cooking or doing something splashy. I wear a slouch hat for hunting, sometimes, but otherwise, I just tie my hair back.”

“Oh,” Fanny said uncertainly. “I gueth—guess that’s why Mrs. Fraser—your mother, I mean—why she doesn’t wear them either?”

“Well, it’s a little different with Mama,” Bree said, running her fingers through her own long red hair to untangle it. “It’s part of her war with—“ she paused for a moment, wondering how much to say, but after all, if Fanny was now part of the family, she’d learn such things sooner or later. “—with people who think they have a right to tell her how to do things.”

Fanny’s eyes went round.

“Don’t they?”

“I’d like to see anybody try,” Bree said dryly, and having twisted her hair into an untidy bun, turned to survey the contents of the cellar.





Excerpt "Jamie prayers"

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There was a green thing that looked like a tiny spade sitting on Jamie’s upraised knee.  He moved a hand cautiously toward it, but it wasn’t afraid of him and didn’t fly off or retaliate by trying to crawl into his ears or nose as flies did.   It let him touch its backside, merely twitching its antennae in mild annoyance, but when he attempted to stroke its back, it sprang off his knee, sudden as a grasshopper, and landed on the edge of Claire’s medicine box, where it seemed to pause to take stock of its circumstances.

 “Don’t do it,” he advised the insect, in Gaelic.  “You’ll end up as a tonic, or ground to powder.”   He couldn’t tell whether it was looking at him, but it seemed to consider, then gave another startling hop and vanished.

 Fanny had brought Claire a plant of some kind, and Claire was turning over the leaves with a finger, her face bright with interest, explaining what it was good for.  Fanny glowed, a tiny smile of pleasure at being useful on her face.

 The sight of her warmed his heart.  She’d been so frightened when Willie brought her to them—and nay wonder, poor wee lass.   There was a colder place in his heart, where her sister Jane lived.

 He said a small prayer for the repose of Jane’s soul—and after an instant’s hesitation, another, for Willie.   Whenever he thought of Jane, he saw her in his mind, alone and abandoned in black night, dead by the light of her only candle.    Dead by her own hand, and the Church said, thus damned, but he stubbornly prayed for her soul anyway.  They couldn’t stop him.

 _Dinna fash, a leannan_, he thought toward her, tenderly.  _I’ll see Frances safe for ye, and maybe I’ll see ye in Heaven one day.  Dinna be afraid_.

 He hoped someone would see William safe for him.  Dreadful as the memory of that night was, he kept it, recalled it deliberately.   William had come to him for help, and he treasured that.   The sense of the two of them, pursuing a lost cause through the rain of a dangerous night, standing together in desolation by the light of that candle, too late.  It was a dreadful memory, but one he didn’t want to forget.   

 _Mammeigh_, he thought, the presence of his mother suddenly warm in his mind.    Look after my bonnie lad, will ye?

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon






Excerpt "Rollo's soul"

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I looked downhill and saw Jamie emerging from the willow trees that fringed Deep Eddy Creek, shooing children ahead of him like a herd of small, disobedient sheep, careering from side to side, bumping into each other and giggling.  Not for the first time, I missed Rollo, who would have taken that job in hand—or paw—with gusto, and crossed myself at the thought with a rueful smile.

 “Do you think it’s proper to pray for the soul of an animal?” I asked Roger, who was building up the cook fire, assisted by Mandy, who was helpfully handing him sticks and other objects she thought should be included.   He straightened up, dusting his hands, and smiled at me.

 “I’m thinking that any prayer is a good prayer, but I don’t think Presbyterians have any doctrines concerning animals.  Which animal did ye have in mind?  Because if it’s the White Sow…”

 “No,” I said thoughtfully.  “I’m reasonably sure the White Sow is beyond redemption, if not actually a minor demon of some sort.  I was thinking of Rollo.”

 “Oh, dogs.  No, sweetheart, the fire’s high enough now—we need to let it burn down a bit so Grannie can cook our dinner.  Go wash your hands—and maybe your face while you’re about it, aye?”

 “And ask Germain to bring me a bucket of water, will you, Mandy?”  I called after her.   She nodded amiably and skipped off toward the well, Esmeralda under one arm and her ratty pinafore—now smudged with charcoal-- flapping round her legs.

 “Dogs,” Roger repeated, turning back to me.  “Well…I once met a Catholic priest in Inverness—he sang in the St. Stephen’s choir, for fun, you know; beautiful baritone—anyway, I took him for a pint one night and in the course of the conversation, we got round to dogs.  He’d just lost one of his dogs, a very sweet fluffy wee dog, who’d come with him to practice and curl up by his feet while the singing went on.    So I proposed a toast to Tippy, and everyone in the bar joined in—well, anyway, someone asked Peter—Peter Drummond, Father Pete, they called him—asked him whether dogs have souls.”

 “Well, of course they have.”  Jamie had dispersed his flock and made his way up the hill in time to hear this.   “How could ye look into a dog’s eyes and doubt it?”







Excerpt "Brianna"

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Ian’s cabin was charming. Not that it was markedly different in form from any other mountain cabin Brianna had ever seen, but it was sited in the midst of an aspen grove, and the fluttering leaves broke the sunlight into a flurry of light and shadow, so that the cabin had an air of magic about it—as though it might disappear into the trees altogether if you looked away.
Four goats and two kids poked their heads over the fence of their pen and started a congenial racket of greeting, but no one came out to see who the visitors were.

“They’ve gone somewhere,” Jamie remarked, squinting at the house. “Is that a note on the door?”

It was; a scrap of paper pinned to the door with a long thorn, with a line of incomprehensible writing that Bree finally recognized as Gaelic.

“Is Young Ian’s wife a Scot?” she asked, frowning at the words. The only ones she could make out were—she thought—“MacCree” and “goat.”

“Nay, it’s from Jenny,” her father said, whipping out his spectacles and scanning the note. “She says she and Rachel are away to a quilting and if Ian comes home before they do, will he milk the goats and set half the milk aside for cheese.”

As though hearing their names called, a chorus of loud mehh’s came from the goat pen.
“Evidently Ian’s not home yet, either,” Brianna observed. “Do they need to be milked now, do you think? I probably remember how.”

Her father smiled at the thought, but shook his head. “Nay, Jenny will ha’ stripped them no more than a few hours ago—they’ll do fine until the evening.”

Until that moment, she’d been idly supposing “Jenny” to be the name of a hired girl—but hearing the tone in which Jamie had said it, she blinked.

“Jenny. Your sister Jenny?” she said, incredulous. “She’s here?”
He looked mildly startled.

“Aye, she is. I’m sorry, lass, I never stopped to think ye didna ken that. She—wait.” He lifted a hand, looking at her intently. “The letters. We wrote—well, Claire mostly wrote them—but—“

“We got them.” She felt breathless, the same feeling she’d had when Roger had brought back the wooden box with Jemmy’s full name burnt into the lid, and they’d opened it to find the letters. And the overwhelming sense of relief, joy, and sorrow, when she opened the first letter to see the words, “We are alive…”.

The same feeling swept through her now, and tears took her unaware, so that everything around her flickered and blurred, as though the cabin and her father and she herself might be about to disappear altogether, dissolved into the shimmering light of the aspen trees. She made a small choking sound, and her father’s arm came round her, holding her close.

“We never thought we should see ye again,” he whispered into her hair, his own voice choked. “Never, a leannan. I was afraid—so afraid ye hadna reached safety, that…ye’d died, all of ye, lost in—in there. And we’d never know.”

“We couldn’t tell you.” She lifted her head from his shoulder and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. “But you could tell us. Those letters…knowing you were alive. I mean…” She stopped suddenly, and blinking away the last of the tears, saw Jamie look away, blinking back his own.

“But we weren’t,” he said softly. “We were dead. When ye read those letters.”

“No, you weren’t,” she said fiercely, gripping his hand. “I wouldn’t read the letters all at once. I spaced them out—because as long as there were still unopened letters…you were still alive.”

“None of it matters, lass,” he said at last, very softly. He raised her hand and kissed her knuckles, his breath warm and light on her skin. “Ye’re here. So are we. Nothing else matters at all.”

[end section]







Excerpt "Claire"

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The sun was barely up, but Jamie was long gone. I’d wakened briefly when he kissed my forehead, whispered that he was going hunting with Brianna, then kissed my lips and vanished into the chilly dark. I waked again two hours later in the warm nest of old quilts—these donated by the Crombies and the Lindsays—that served us for a bed and sat up, cross-legged in my shift, combing leaves and grass-heads out of my hair with my fingers, and enjoying the rare feeling of waking slowly, rather than with the usual sensation of having been shot from a cannon.

I supposed, with a pleasant little thrill, that once the house was habitable and the MacKenzies, along with Germain and Fanny, all ensconced within, mornings would once more resemble the exodus of bats from Carlsbad Caverns—were there bats there now? I wondered.

A bright-red ladybug dropped out of my hair and down the front of my shift, which put an abrupt end to my ruminations. I leapt up and shook the beetle out into the long grass by the Big Log, went into the bushes for a private moment and came out with a bunch of fresh mint. There was just enough water left in the bucket for me to have a cup of tea, so I left the mint on the flat surface Jamie had adzed at one end of the huge fallen poplar log to serve as worktable and food preparation space, and went to build up the fire and set the kettle inside the ring of blackened stones.

At the far edge of the clearing below a thin spiral of smoke rose from the chimney like a snake out of a charmer’s basket; someone had poked up their smoored fire as well.

Who would be my first visitor this morning? Germain, perhaps; he’d slept at the Higgins cabin last night—but he wasn’t an early riser by temperament, any more than I was. Fanny was a good distance away, with the Widow Donaldson and her enormous brood; she’d be along later.

It would be Roger, I thought, and felt a lifting of my heart. Roger and the children.

The fire was licking at the tin kettle; I lifted the lid and shredded a good handful of mint leaves into the water—first shaking the stems to dislodge any hitch-hikers. The rest I bound with a twist of thread and hung among the other herbs hanging from the rafters of my make-shift surgery—this consisting of four poles with a lattice laid across the top, covered with hemlock branches for shade and shelter. I had two stools—one for me and one for the patient of the moment, and a small, crudely-built table to hold whatever implements I needed to have easily to hand.

Jamie had put up a canvas lean-to beside the shelter, to provide privacy for such cases as required it, and also storage for food or medicines kept in raccoon-proof casks, jars or boxes.

It was rural, rustic, and very romantic. In a bug-ridden, grimy-ankled, exposed to the elements, occasional creeping sensation on the back of the neck indicating that you were being eyed up by something considering eating you sort of way, but still.

I cast a longing look at the new foundation.

The house would have two handsome stone chimneys; one had been halfway built, and stood sturdy as a monolith amid the framing timbers of what would shortly—I hoped—be our kitchen and dining space. Jamie had assured me that he would wall in the large room and tack on a temporary canvas roof within the week, so we could resume sleeping and cooking indoors. The rest of the house…

That might depend on whatever grandiose notions he and Brianna had developed during their conversation the night before. I seemed to recall wild remarks about concrete and indoor plumbing, which I rather hoped wouldn’t take root, at least not until we had a roof over our heads and a floor under our feet. On the other hand…

The sound of voices on the path below indicated that my expected company had arrived, and I smiled. On the other hand, we’d have two more pairs of experienced and competent hands to help with the building.

Jem’s disheveled red head popped into view and he broke into a huge grin at sight of me.

“Grannie!” he shouted, and brandished a slightly mangled corn-dodger. “We brought you breakfast!”






Excerpt "Wilmington"

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We walked on slowly, pausing now and then as I spotted something edible, medicinal, or fascinating. It being autumn, this required a stop every few feet.

“Oo!” I said, heading for a slash of deep, bloody red at the foot of a tree. “Look at that!”

“It looks like a slice of fresh deer’s liver,” Jamie said, peering over my shoulder. “But it doesna smell like blood, so I’m guessing it’s one of the things ye call shelf-funguses?”

“Very astute of you. Fistulina hepatica,” I said, whipping out my knife. “Here, hold this, would you?”

He accepted my basket with no more than a slight roll of the eyes and stood patiently while I cut the fleshy chunks—for there was a whole nest of them hidden under the drifted leaves, like a set of crimson lily pads—free of the tree. I left the smaller ones to grow, but still had at least two pounds of the meaty mushroom. I packed them in layers of damp leaves, but broke off a small piece and offered it to Jamie.

“One side makes you taller, and one side makes you small,” I said, smiling.

“What?”

“Alice in Wonderland—the Caterpillar. I’ll tell you later. It’s said to taste rather like raw beef,” I said.

Muttering, “Caterpillar” under his breath, he accepted the bit, turned it from side to side, inspecting it critically to be sure it harbored no insidious legs, then popped it in his mouth and chewed, eyes narrowed in concentration. He swallowed, and I relaxed a little.

“Maybe like verra old beef, that’s been hung a long time,” he allowed. “But aye, a man could stomach it.”

“That’s actually a very good commendation for a raw mushroom,” I said, pleased. “If I had a few anchovies to hand, I’d make you a nice tartare sauce to go with it.”

“Anchovies,” he said thoughtfully. “I havena had an anchovy in years.” He licked his lower lip in memory. “I might find some, when I go to Wilmington.”

I looked at him in surprise.

“Are you planning to go before the spring?” True, the leaves were still nearly as thick upon the trees as upon the ground, but in the mountains, the weather could turn in the space of an hour. There could be snow in the passes any time between now and next March.

“Aye, I thought I’d risk one more trip before winter sets in,” he said casually. “D’ye want to come, Sassenach? I thought ye’d maybe be busy wi’ the preserving.”

“Hmpf.” While it was perfectly true that I ought to be spending every waking hour in finding, catching, smoking, salting or preserving food…it was equally true that I ought to be replenishing our stocks of needles, pins, sugar—that was a good point, I’d need more sugar to be making the fruit preserves—and thread, to say nothing of other bits of household iron-mongery and the medicines I couldn’t find or make, like Jesuit’s bark and ether.

And, if you came right down to it, wild horses couldn’t keep me from going with him. Jamie knew it, too; I could see the side of his mouth curling.






Excerpt "Cramped quarters"

The small wooden structure to which the lieutenant escorted them might originally have been a chicken coop, Brianna thought, ducking beneath the flimsy lintel. Someone had been living in it, though; there were two rough pallets with blankets on the floor, a stool that held a chipped and stained pottery ewer and basin, and an enameled tin chamberpot in much better condition.

“I do apologize, ma’am,” the lieutenant said, for the dozenth time. “But half our tents have blown away and the men are holding down the rest.” He held his lantern up, peering dubiously at the dark splotches seeping through the boards of one wall. “It seems not to be leaking too badly. Yet.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” Brianna assured him, hunching out of the way so her two large escorts could squeeze in behind her. With four people inside the shed, there was literally no room to turn around, let alone lie down, and she clutched her sketchbox under her cloak, not wanting it to be trampled.

“We are obliged to you, Lieutenant.” William was bent nearly double under the low ceiling, but managed a nod in Hanson’s direction. “Food?”

“Directly, sir,” the lieutenant assured him. “I’m sorry there’s no fire, but at least you’ll be out of the rain. Good night, Mrs. MacKenzie—and thank you again.”

He squirmed past the bulk of John Cinnamon, and disappeared into the blustery night, clutching his hat to his head.

“Take that one,” William said to Brianna, jerking his chin at the bed-sack furthest from the leaking wall. “Cinnamon and I will take the other in shifts.”

She was too tired to argue with him. She laid down her sketchbox, shook the blanket, and when no bedbugs, lice or spiders fell out, sat down, feeling like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.

She closed her eyes, hearing William and John Cinnamon negotiate their movements, but letting the low voices wash over her like the wind and rain outside. Images crowded the backs of her eyes, the trampled grass of the riverside trail, the suspicious faces of the British sentries, the ever-changing light on the dead man’s face, her brother jerking his chin in exactly the way her—their—father did…dark streaks of water and white streaks of chicken shit on silvered boards in the lantern-light…light…it seemed a thousand years since she’d watched the morning sun glow pink through Angelina Brumby’s small sweet ear…

She opened her eyes on darkness, feeling a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t fall asleep before you eat something,” William said, sounding amused. “I promised to see you fed, and I shouldn’t like to break my word.”

“Food?” She shook her head, blinking. A sudden glow rose behind William, and she saw the big Indian set down a clay fire-pot next to the stubby candle he’d just lit. He tilted the candle over the bottom of the upturned chamberpot, then stuck it into the melted wax, holding it until the wax hardened.

“Sorry, I should have asked if you wanted to piss, first,” Cinnamon said, looking at her apologetically. “Only there’s no place else to put the candle.”







Excerpt "Faith"

[Here we find Jamie and Claire, sitting beside a dying bonfire. The MacKenzies have just arrived, and after a celebratory dinner, have gone down the hill to spend the night at a cabin—Jamie and Claire elect to stay and see the fire out, then sleep on a quilt under the stars. They talk for a while about what’s happened and the wonder of having their family back. But in the way of long-married people, the conversation now and then doubles back on itself, in recollection…]


“…the night we made Faith.”

I lifted my head in surprise.
“You _know_ when she was conceived? _I_ don’t know that.”

He ran his hand slowly down my back, fingers pausing to rub circles in the small of it. If I’d been a cat, I would have waved my tail gently under his nose.

“Aye, well, I suppose I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought it was the night I came to your bed at the Abbey.”

For a moment, I groped among my memories. That time at the Abbey of Ste. Anne, when he’d come so close to a self-chosen death, was one I seldom revisited. It was a terrifying time of fear and confusion, despair and desperation. And yet when I did look back, I found a handful of vivid images, standing out like the illuminated letters on a page of ancient Latin.

Father Anselm’s face, pale in candlelight, his eyes warm with compassion and then the growing glow of wonder as he heard my confession. The abbot’s hands, touching Jamie’s forehead, eyes, lips and palms, delicate as a hummingbird’s touch, anointing his dying nephew with the holy chrism of Extreme Unction. The quiet of the darkened chapel where I had prayed for his life, and heard my prayer answered.

And among these moments was the night when I woke from sleep to find him standing . a pale wraith by my bed, naked and freezing, so weak he could barely walk, but filled once more with life and a stubborn determination that would never leave him.

“You remember her, then?” My hand rested lightly on my stomach, recalling. He’d never seen her, or felt her as more than random kicks and pushes from inside me.

He kissed my forehead briefly, then looked at me.

“Ye ken I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I just wanted you to tell me more.”

“Oh, I mean to.” He settled himself on one elbow and gathered me in so I could share his plaid.

“Do you remember that, too?” I asked, pulling down the fold of cloth he’d draped over me. “Sharing your plaid with me, the night we met?”

“To keep ye from freezing? Aye.” He kissed the back of my neck. “It was me freezing, at the Abbey. I’d worn myself out tryin’ to walk, and ye wouldna let me eat anything, so I was starving to death, and—“

“Oh, you _know_ that’s not true! You—“


“Would I lie to ye, Sassenach?

“Yes, you bloody would,” I said, “You do it all the time. But never mind that now. You were freezing and starving, and suddenly decided that instead of asking Brother Roger for a blanket or a bowl of something hot, you should stagger naked down a dark stone corridor and get in bed with me.”

“Some things are more important than food, Sassenach.” His hand settled firmly on my arse. “And finding out whether I could ever bed ye again was more important than anything else just then. I reckoned if I couldn’t, I’d just walk on out into the snow and not come back.”

“Naturally, it didn’t occur to you to wait for a few more weeks and recover your strength.”

“Well, I was fairly sure I could walk that far leaning on the walls, and I’d be doin’ the rest lying down, so why wait?” The hand on my arse was idly stroking it now. “Ye do recall the occasion.”

“It was like making love to a block of ice.” It had been. It had also wrung my heart with tenderness, and filled me with a hope I’d thought I’d never know again. “Besides, you thawed out after a bit.”

Only a bit, at first. I’d just cradled him against me, trying as hard as possible to generate body heat. I’d pulled off my shift, urgent to get as much skin contact as possible. I remembered the hard, sharp curve of his hipbone, the knobs of his spine and the ridged fresh scars over them.

“You weren’t much more than skin and bones.”

I turned, drew him down beside me now and pulled him close, wanting the reassurance of his present warmth against the chill of memory. He _was_ warm. And alive. Very much alive.

“Ye put your leg over me to keep me from falling out the bed, I remember that.” He rubbed my leg slowly, and I could hear the smile in his voice, though his face was dark with the fire behind him, sparking in his hair.

“It was a small bed.” It had been—a narrow monastic cot, scarcely large enough for one normal-sized person. And even starved as he was, he’d occupied a lot of space.

“I wanted to roll ye onto your back, Sassenach, but I was afraid I’d pitch us both out onto the floor, and…well, I wasna sure I could hold myself up.”

He’d been shaking with cold and weakness. But now, I realized, probably with fear as well. I took the hand resting on my hip and raised it to my mouth, kissing his knuckles. His fingers were cold from the evening air and tightened on the warmth of mine.

“You managed,” I said softly, and rolled onto my back, bringing him with me.

“Only just,” he murmured, finding his way through the layers of quilt, plaid, shirt and shift. He let out a long breath, and so did I. “Oh, Jesus, Sassenach.”

He moved, just a little.

“What it felt like,” he whispered. “Then. To think I’d never have ye again, and then…”

He _had_ managed, and it _was_ just barely.

“I thought—I’d do it if it was the last thing I ever did…”

“It almost bloody was,” I whispered back, and took hold of his bottom, firm and round. “I really did think you’d died, for a moment, until you started to move.”

“Thought I was going to,” he said, with the breath of a laugh. “Oh, God, Claire…” He stopped for a moment, lowered himself and pressed his forehead against mine. He’d done it that night, too, cold-skinned and fierce with desperation, and I’d felt I was breathing my own life into him then, his mouth so soft and open, smelling faintly of the ale mixed with egg that was all he could keep down.

“I wanted…” he whispered. “I wanted you. Had to have ye. But once I was inside ye, I wanted….”

He sighed then, deep, and moved deeper.

“I thought I’d die of it, then and there. And I wanted to. Wanted to go—while I was inside ye.” His voice had changed, still soft but somehow distant, detached--and I knew he’d moved away from the present moment, gone back to the cold stone dark and the panic, the fear and overwhelming need.

“I wanted to spill myself into ye and let that be the last I ever knew, but then I started, and I kent it wasna meant to be that way—but that I would keep myself inside ye forever. That I was givin’ ye a child.”

He’d come back in the speaking, back into the now and into me. I held him tight, big and solid and strong in my arms, and shaking, helpless as he gave himself up. I felt warm tears well up and slide down cold into my hair.

After a time, he stirred and rolled off onto his side. A big hand still rested light on my belly.

“I did manage, aye?” he said, and smiled a little, firelight soft on his face.

“You did,” I said, and pulling the plaid back over us, I lay with him, content in the light of dying flame and eternal stars.









Excerpt "Mountain Meadow"

#DailyLines   #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGone   #noitsnotthelastone  #therewillbeaBookTen   #dontholdyourbreath #probablynextyearforthisone  #mountainmeadow  

 “Bear?  Oh, is that what ye’re up to.  Claire wondered.”   Jenny loosed the eager goats  and they dived headfirst into the thick grass like ducks in a millpond.

 “Did she, then. “  He kept his voice casual.

 “She didna say so,” his sister said frankly.  “But she saw your gun was gone , while we were makin’ breakfast, and she stopped dead, only for an instant.”

 His heart squeezed a little.  He hadn’t wanted to waken Claire when he left in the dark, but he should have told her last night that he meant to see if he could get upon the trail of the bear Jo Beardsley had seen.   There’d been little time for hunting while they worked to get a roof raised before winter—they needed the meat and grease badly.  And a good bear-rug would be a comfort to Claire in the deep cold nights; she felt the cold more now than the last time they’d spent a winter on the Ridge.

 “She’s all right,” his sister said, and he felt her interested gaze on his own face.  “She only wondered, ken.”

 He nodded, wordless.  It might be a wee while yet, before Claire could wake to find him gone out with a gun, and think nothing of it.

 He took a breath, and saw it wisp out white, vanishing instantly, though the new sun was already warm on his shoulders.

 “Aye, and what are ye doing up here, yourself?  It’s a far piece to walk for forage.”  One of the goats had come up for air and was nosing the hanging end of his leather belt in an interested manner.  He tucked it up out of reach and kneed the goat gently away.

 “I’m fattening them to stand the winter,” she said, nodding at the nosy nanny.  “Maybe breed them, if they’re ready.  They like the grass better than the forage in the woods, and it’s easier to keep an eye on them.”

 “Ye ken well enough Jem and Germain and Fanny would mind them for ye.  Is wee Oggy drivin’ ye mad?”  The baby was teething again, and had vigorous lungs.  You could hear him at the Big House when the wind was right.  “Or are ye drivin’ Rachel mad yourself?” 

 “I like goats,” she said, ignoring his question and shoving aside a pair of questing lips nibbling after the fringe of her shawl.  “[Shoo, goat. - Gaelic]  Sheep are good-hearted things, when they’re not tryin’ to knock ye over, but they’re no bright. A goat has a mind of its own.”

 “Aye, and so do you.  Ian always said ye liked the goats because they’re just as stubborn as you are.”

 She gave him a long, level look.

 “Pot,” she said succinctly.

 “Kettle,” he replied, flicking a plucked grass-stem toward her nose.  She grabbed it out of his hand and fed it to the goat.

 “Mphm,” she said.  “Well, if ye must know, I come up here to think, now and then,” she said .  “And pray.”

 “Oh, aye?” he said, but she pressed her lips together for a moment and then turned to look across the meadow, shading her eyes against the slant of the morning sun.

 _Well enough_, he thought.  _She’ll say whatever it is when she’s ready._

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon.]








Excerpt "Roger met 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 "Claire's morning"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine  #comingalongreallywellthankyou  #noIlltellyouwhenitsdone   #relax   #breathe  #gowatchSeasonsOneTwoandThree  #thenrereadallthebooks  #eatchocolate  #itsgoodforyou

The sun was barely up, but Jamie was long gone.   I’d wakened briefly when he kissed my forehead, whispered that he was going hunting with Brianna, then kissed my lips and vanished into the chilly dark.   I waked again two hours later in the warm nest of old quilts—these donated by the Crombies and the Lindsays—that served us for a bed and sat up, cross-legged in my shift, combing leaves and grass-heads out of my hair with my fingers, and enjoying the rare feeling of waking slowly, rather than with the usual sensation of having been shot from a cannon.   

I supposed, with a pleasant little thrill, that once the house was habitable and the MacKenzies, along with Germain and Fanny, all ensconced within, mornings would once more resemble the exodus of bats from Carlsbad Caverns—were there bats there now?  I wondered.

 A bright-red ladybug dropped out of my hair and down the front of my shift, which put an abrupt end to my ruminations.  I leapt up and shook the beetle out into the long grass by the Big Log, went into the bushes for a private moment and came out with a bunch of fresh mint.   There was just enough water left in the bucket for me to have a cup of tea, so I left the mint on the flat surface Jamie had adzed at one end of the huge fallen poplar log to serve as worktable and food preparation space, and went to build up the fire and set the kettle inside the ring of blackened stones.

 At the far edge of the clearing below a thin spiral of smoke rose from the chimney like a snake out of a charmer’s basket; someone had poked up their smoored fire as well.

 Who would be my first visitor this morning?  Germain, perhaps; he’d slept at the Higgins cabin last night—but he wasn’t an early riser by temperament, any more than I was.  Fanny was a good distance away, with the Widow Donaldson and her enormous brood; she’d be along later.

 It would be Roger, I thought, and felt a lifting of my heart.  Roger and the children.

The fire was licking at the tin kettle; I lifted the lid and shredded a good handful of mint leaves into the water—first shaking the stems to dislodge any hitch-hikers.  The rest I bound with a twist of thread and hung among the other herbs hanging from the rafters of my make-shift surgery—this consisting of four poles with a lattice laid across the top, covered with hemlock branches for shade and shelter.   I had two stools—one for me and one for the patient of the moment, and a small, crudely-built table to hold whatever implements I needed to have easily to hand.

Jamie had put up a canvas lean-to beside the shelter, to provide privacy for such cases as required it, and also storage for food or medicines kept in raccoon-proof casks, jars or boxes.   

It was rural, rustic, and very romantic.  In a bug-ridden, grimy-ankled, exposed to the elements, occasional creeping sensation on the back of the neck indicating that you were being eyed up by something considering eating you sort of way, but still.

I cast a longing look at the new foundation.  

The house would have two handsome stone chimneys; one had been halfway built, and stood sturdy as a monolith amid the framing timbers of what would shortly—I hoped—be our kitchen and dining space.  Jamie had assured me that he would wall in the large room and tack on a temporary canvas roof within the week, so we could resume sleeping and cooking indoors.  The rest of the house…

That might depend on whatever grandiose notions he and Brianna had developed during their conversation the night before.  I seemed to recall wild remarks about concrete and indoor plumbing, which I rather hoped wouldn’t take root, at least not until we had a roof over our heads and a floor under our feet.  On the other hand…

The sound of voices on the path below indicated that my expected company had arrived, and I smiled.  On the other hand, we’d have two more pairs of experienced and competent hands to help with the building.

Jem’s disheveled red head popped into view and he broke into a huge grin at sight of me.

“Grannie!” he shouted, and brandished a slightly mangled corn-dodger.  “We brought you breakfast!”

[Thank you for the lovely Dutch bee on coleus, to Maureen Kluivers!]










Excerpt "William goes home "

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIamGONE   #BookNine   #noofcourseitsnotdone   #Illtellyouwhenitisdontworry   #Williamgoeshome 

William smelled smoke.   Not hearthfire or wildfire; just an ashy tang on the wind, tinged with charcoal, grease and--he breathed deeper…fish.  It wasn’t coming  from the dilapidated house; the chimney had collapsed, taking part of the roof with it, and a big red-leaved creeper shrouded the scatter of stones and shattered shingles.  There were poplar saplings growing up through the buckled boards of the small porch, too; the forest had begun its stealthy work of reclamation. But the forest didn’t smoke its meat.  _Someone_ was here.

 He dismounted and tethered Bart to the branch of a [tree], then made his way toward the house, moving cautiously.   It could be Indians on a hunt, he supposed, smoking their game before carrying it back to wherever they’d come from.  

 He made his way through the remnants of the overgrown orchard, toward the scent of smoke.  He was starving, but ignored the rumbling in his belly.  He’d no quarrel with hunters, but if it was squatters who’d thought to take over the property, they could think again.  Mount Josiah plantation was the only place on earth that he felt truly belonged to him; Mother Isobel had left it to him; it had been her personal property.

 By law, he supposed that he was still the ninth Earl of Ellesmere.  He’d turned twenty-one in January, and technically now had the power to do what he liked with the estate.  He was trying not to think about that.

.   For most of his life, that title had just seemed like another bit of his name, no more important in itself than Clarence or George.  Now the title was a stinking weight, like a dead cat tied to a string round his neck, bloated with all the properties and tenants and farms and manors that belonged to it.   To the title—not to him.

 But _this_ place belonged to William Ransom.

 He carried his pistol loaded, but not primed in case of accident.  He took an instant to prime it now, thrusting it back into its holster before walking around the corner of the house.

 It _was_ Indians—or one, at least.   A half-naked man squatted in the shade of a huge beech tree, tending a small firepit covered with damp burlap; William could smell the sharp scent of fresh-cut hickory logs, mingled with the tang of blood and char.   The Indian—he looked young, though large and very muscular--had his back to William and was deftly stripping the carcass of a small hog, slicing off ragged strips of meat and tossing them into a pile on a flattened burlap sack that lay beside the fire.

 “Hallo, there,” William said, raising his voice.   The man looked round, blinking against the smoke and waving it out of his face.  He rose slowly, the knife he’d been using still in his hand, but William had spoken pleasantly enough, and the stranger wasn’t menacing.  He also wasn’t a stranger.   He stepped out of the tree’s shadow, the sunlight hit his hair,  and William felt a jolt of astonished recognition.

 So did the young man, by the look on his face.   

 “Lieutenant?” he said, disbelieving.  He looked William quickly up and down, registering the lack of uniform, and his big dark eyes fixed on William’s face.  “Lieutenant…Lord Ellesmere?”

 “I used to be.   Mr.  Cinnamon, isn’t it?”   He couldn’t help smiling as he spoke the name, and the other’s mouth twisted wryly in acknowledgement.  The young man’s hair was now no more than an inch long, but only shaving it off entirely would have disguised either its distinctive deep reddish-brown color or its exuberant curliness.  A Canadian mission orphan, he owed his name to it.

 “John Cinnamon, yes.   Your servant…sir.”  The erstwhile scout gave him a presentable half-bow, though the “sir” was spoken with something of a question.

 “William Ransom.  Yours, sir,” William said, smiling, and thrust out his hand.  John Cinnamon was a couple of inches shorter than himself, and a couple of inches broader;  the scout had grown into himself in the last two years and possessed a very solid hand-shake.

 “I trust you’ll pardon my curiosity, Mr. Cinnamon—but how the devil do you come to be here?”  William asked, letting go.   He’d last seen John Cinnamon two years before, in Canada, where he’d spent much of a long, cold winter hunting and trapping in company with the half-Indian scout, who was near his own age.

 He wondered briefly if Cinnamon had come in search of him, but that was absurd.  He didn’t think he’d ever mentioned Mount Josiah to the man—and even if he had, Cinnamon couldn’t possibly have expected to find him here.   He’d not been here since he was sixteen.

 “Ah.”  To William’s surprise, a slow flush washed Cinnamon’s broad cheekbones.  “I—er—I…well, I’m on my way south.”  The flush grew deeper.

 William cocked an eyebrow.  While it was true that Virginia was south of Quebec and that there was a good deal of country souther still, Mount Josiah wasn’t on the way to anywhere.  No roads led here.  He had himself come upriver with his horse on a barge to the Breaks, that stretch of falls and turbulent water where the land suddenly collapsed upon itself and put a stop to water travel.  He’d seen only three people as he rode on above the Breaks—all of them headed the other way.

 Suddenly, though, Cinnamon’s wide shoulders relaxed and the look of wariness was erased by relief.

 “In fact, I came to see my friend,” he said, and nodded toward the house.  William turned quickly, to see another Indian picking his way through the raspberry brambles  littering what used to be a small croquet lawn.

 “Manoke!” he said.   Then shouted “Manoke!”, making the older man look up.  The older Indian’s face lighted with joy, and a sudden uncomplicated happiness washed through William’s heart, cleansing as spring rain.

 The Indian was lithe and spare as he’d always been, his face a little more lined.  His hair smelt of woodsmoke when William embraced him, and the gray in it was the same soft color, but it was still thick and coarse as ever—he could see that easily; he was looking down on it from above, Manoke’s cheek pressed into his shoulder.

 “What did you say?” he asked, releasing Manoke.

 “I said, ‘My, how you have grown, boy,” Manoke said, grinning up at him.  “Do you need food?”

[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon.  Thanks to Maureen Kluivers for the lovely Dutch bee!]





Excerpt "Briana's letter"

DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #BookNine #goingVERYwellthankyou#thatdoesntmeanitsgoingFASTmindyou #justverywell #[plot]meansIknowwhathappenstherebutyouarentsupposedto

[date]
Fraser’s Ridge, North Carolina

Dear Lord John—

I’m back. Though I suppose I should say “I have returned!”—more dramatic, you know? I’m smiling as I write this, imagining you saying something about how lack of drama is not one of my failings. Yours either, my friend.

We—my husband, Roger, and our two children, Jeremiah (Jem) and Amanda (Mandy)—have taken up residence on Fraser’s Ridge. (Though it’s more like the residence is taking up existence around us; my father is building his own fortress.) We’ll be here for the foreseeable future, though I know better than most people just how little one _can_ foresee of the future. We’ll leave the details until I see you again.


[Plot]



Mama says you will know perfectly well why I’m writing to you about Denzell Hunter, rather than she doing it. Da says no one needs to write to you, as Dr. Hunter’s wife will surely have written to her father (your brother, if I have things straight?) already, but I agree with Mama that it’s better to write, just in case [plot].

All my best to you and your family—and do please give my best to your son William. I look forward to meeting him—and you, of course!-- again.

(Does one sign a letter ‘Your most obedient, humble, etc.’ if one is a woman? Surely not…)

Yours truly,

Brianna Randall Fraser MacKenzie (Mrs.)






Excerpt "The virtues of bacon"


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.”

[Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon.]






Excerpt "Things worth Fighting for"

#DailyLines   #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #ForTheFourthofJuly   #DreamsOfBattle  #ThingsWorthFightingFor

I was having the delightful sort of dream where you realize that you’re asleep and are enjoying it extremely.  I was warm, bonelessly relaxed, and my mind was an exquisite blank.  I was just beginning to sink down through this cloudy layer of bliss to the deeper realms of unconsciousness when a violent movement of the mattress under me jerked me into instant alertness.

 By reflex, I rolled onto my side and reached for Jamie.  I hadn’t reached the stage of conscious thought yet, but my synapses had already drawn their own conclusions.  He was still in bed, so we weren’t under attack and the house wasn’t afire.  I heard nothing but his rapid breathing; the children were all right and no one had broken in.  Ergo…it was his own dream that had wakened him.

 This thought penetrated into the conscious part of my mind just as my hand touched his shoulder.  He drew back, but not with the violent recoil he usually showed if I touched him too suddenly after a bad dream.  He was awake, then; he knew it was me.  Thank God for that, I thought, and drew a deep breath of my own.

 “Jamie?” I said softly.  My eyes were dark-adapted already; I could see him, half-curled beside me, tense, facing me.

 “Dinna touch me, Sassenach,” he said, just as softly.  “Not yet.  Let it pass.” He’d gone to bed in a nightshirt; the room was still chilly.  But he was naked now.  When had he taken it off?  And why?

He didn’t move, but his body seemed to flow, the faint glow of the smoored fire shifting on his skin as he relaxed, hair by hair, his breathing slowing.

I relaxed a little, too, in response, though I still watched him warily.  It wasn’t a Wentworth dream—he wasn’t sweating; I could almost literally smell fear and blood on him when he woke from those.  They came rarely—but were terrible when they did come.

Battlefield?  Perhaps; I hoped so.  Some of those were worse than others, but he usually came back from a dream of battle fairly quickly, and would let me cradle him in my arms and gentle him back toward sleep.  I longed to do it now.

 An ember cracked on the hearth behind me, and the tiny spurt of sparks lit his face for an instant, surprising me.   He looked…peaceful, his eyes dark-wide and fixed on something he could still see.   

 “What is it?” I whispered, after a few moments.  “What do you see, Jamie?”

 He shook his head slowly, eyes still fixed.  Very slowly, though, the focus came back into them, and he saw me.  He sighed once, deeply, and his shoulders went loose.  He reached for me and I all but lunged into his arms, holding him tight.

 “It’s all right, Sassenach,” he said into my hair.  “I’m not…  It’s all right.”

 His voice sounded odd, almost puzzled.  But he meant it; he was all right.  He rubbed my back gently, between the shoulder blades and I gulped a little.  He was very warm, despite the chill, and the clinical part of my mind checked him quickly—no shivering, no flinching…his breathing was quite normal and so was his heart-rate, easily perceptible against my breast.

 “Do you…can you tell me about it?”  I said, after a bit.  Sometimes he could, and it seemed to help.  More often, he couldn’t, and would just shake  until the dream let go its grip on his mind and let him turn away.

 “I don’t know,” he said, the note of surprise still in his voice.  “I mean—it was Culloden, but…it was different.”

 “How?” I asked warily.  I knew from what he’d told me that he remembered only bits and pieces of the battle, single vivid images.  I’d never encouraged him to try to remember more, but I had noticed that such dreams came more frequently, the closer we came to any looming conflict.  “Did you see Murtagh?”

 “Aye, I did.”  The tone of surprise in his voice deepened, and his hand stilled on my back.  “He was with me, by me.   But I could see his face; it shone like the sun.”

 This description of his late godfather was more than peculiar; Murtagh had been one of the more dour specimens of Scottish manhood ever produced in the Highlands.

 “He was…happy?” I ventured doubtfully.  I couldn’t imagine anyone who’d set foot on Culloden moor that day had cracked so much as a smile—likely not even the Duke of Cumberland.

 “Oh, more than happy, Sassenach—filled wi’ joy.”  He let go of me then, and glanced down into my face.  “We all were.”

 “All of you—who else was there?”  My concern for him had mostly subsided now, replaced by curiosity.

 “I dinna ken, quite…there was Alex Kincaid, and Ronnie…”

 “Ronnie MacNab?” I blurted, astonished.

 “Aye,” he said, scarcely noticing my interruption.  His brows were drawn inward in concentration, and there was still something of an odd radiance about his own face.  “My father was there, too, and my grand-sire—“  He laughed aloud at that, surprised afresh.  “I canna imagine why _he’d_ be there—but there he was, plain as day, standing by the field, glowering at the goings-on, but lit up like a turnip on Samhain, nonetheless.”

 I didn’t want to point out to him that everyone he’d mentioned so far was dead.  Many of them hadn’t even been on the field that day—Alex Kincaid had died at Prestonpans, and Ronnie MacNab… I glanced involuntarily at the fire, glowing on the new black slate of the hearthstone.  But Jamie was still looking into the depths of his dream.

 “Ken, when ye fight, mostly it’s just hard work.  Ye get tired.  Your sword’s so heavy ye think ye canna lift it one more time—but ye do, of course.”  He stretched, flexing his left arm and turning it, watching the play of light over the sun-bleached hairs and deep-cut muscle.  “It’s hot—or it’s freezing—and either way, ye just want to go be somewhere else.  Ye’re scairt or ye’re too busy to be scairt until it’s over, and then ye shake because of what ye’ve just been doing….”  He shook his head hard at this, dislodging the thoughts.

 “Not this time.”

[Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon]





Excerpt "Fathers day"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #ForFathersDay #notspoilers#butnotNOTquitespoilerseither

“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 "Hands on medicine"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #Clairessurgery #Handsonmedicine #itsgoingverywell#thankyou #noyoudonthaveanychoiceaboutwaitingforit #itllbedonewhenitsdone

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  "Roger brings a letter"

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Roger had dressed for his occasions.  Luckily, the same black broadcloth suit, long-coated and pewter-buttoned, would do for both, since it was the only one he possessed.   Brianna had plaited and clubbed his hair severely, and he was so clean-shaven that his jaw felt raw.  A high white stock wrapped round his neck completed the picture—he hoped—of a respectable clergyman.   The British sentries at the barricade on [     ]  had given him no more than a disinterested glance before nodding him through.   He could only hope the American sentries outside the city felt the same lack of curiosity about ministers.

 He rode out a good distance from the city before  beginning to circle back toward the Americans’ siege lines, and it was just past noon when he came within sight of them.

 The American camp was rough but orderly, an acre or so of canvas tents fluttering in the wind like trapped gulls, and the amazingly big [    ] war-ships visible beyond, from which every so often, a volley of cannon-fire would erupt with gouts of flame, setting loose vast clouds of white smoke to drift across the marshes with the scattered clouds of gulls and oyster-catchers alarmed by the noise.  

There were pickets posted among the [   ] bushes, one of whom popped up like a jack-in-the-box and pointed a musket at Roger in a business-like way.

“Halt!”

Roger pulled in his reins and raised his stick, white handkerchief tied to its end, feeling foolish.  It worked, though.   The picket whistled through his teeth for a companion, who popped up alongside, and at the first man’s nod, came forward to take Dundee’s bridle.

“What’s your name and what d’you want?” the man demanded, squinting up at Roger.   He wore a backwoodsman’s ordinary breeches and hunting shirt, but had army boots and an odd uniform cap, shaped like a squashed bishop’s mitre, and bore a copper badge on his collar reading “Sgt. Bradford”.

 “My name is Roger MacKenzie.   I’m a Presbyterian minister, and I’ve brought a letter to [      ]  from General James Fraser, late of George Washington’s Monmouth command.”

 Sergeant Bradford’s brows rose out of sight beneath his hat.

 “General Fraser,” he said.   “Monmouth?  That the fellow that abandoned his troops to tend his wife?”

 This was said with a derisive tone, and Roger felt the words like a blow to the stomach.  Was this how Jamie’s admittedly dramatic resignation of his commission was commonly perceived in the Continental Army?   If so, his own present mission might be a little more delicate than he’d expected.

 “General Fraser is my father-in-law, sir,” Roger said, in a neutral voice.  “An honorable man—and a very brave soldier.”

 The look of scorn didn’t quite leave the man’s face, but it moderated into a short nod, and the man turned away, jerking his chin in an indication that Roger might follow, if he felt so inclined.





Excerpt "Lord John Wants Bree"

DailyLines #Happy #WorldOutlanderDay ! #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #comingalongnicely#thankyou #WhatsYourFavoriteLineFromOutlander ?

Jamie read the letter through twice, his lips tightening at the same place, halfway down the first page—and then again, at the end. It wasn’t actually unusual for him to react to one of John’s letters that way, but when he did, it was normally because it held unwelcome news of the war, of William, or of some incipient action on the part of the British government that might be about to result in Jamie’s imminent arrest or some other domestic inconvenience.

This, however, was the first letter John had sent in nearly two years—since before Jamie’s return from the dead to find me married to John Grey, and before he had punched John in the eye as a result of this news and inadvertently caused his lordship to be arrested and nearly hanged by the American militia. Well, turnabout was fair play, I supposed…

No point in putting it off.

“What does John have to say?” I asked, keeping my voice pleasantly neutral. Jamie glanced up at me, snorted, and took off his spectacles.

“He wants Brianna,” he said shortly, and pushed the letter across the table to me.

I glanced involuntarily over my shoulder, but Bree had gone to the springhouse with a box of freshly-made cheeses.

[Plot Stuff/Spoilers]

“Well, I _do_ have a plan,” Brianna said, with some asperity. “I’m going to take the kids with me.”

Jamie said something under his breath in Gaelic. Roger didn’t say it, but might as well have had the words “God help us all,” tattooed on his forehead. I felt similarly, but for once, I thought I’d concealed my sentiments better than the men, who weren’t trying to conceal theirs at all. I wiped my face with a towel, and bent to ladle the stew into bowls.

“Possibly there are a few refinements that could be added,” I said, as soothingly as possible, my back safely turned. “Why don’t you call everybody in to dinner, Bree, and we’ll talk about it when the children are in bed.”



Excerpt "Back to the Ridge"

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They had brought me breakfast, lavish by my present standards: two fresh corn dodgers, warm griddled sausage patties wrapped in layers between burdock leaves [ck.], a boiled egg, still hot, and a quarter-inch of Amy’s last year’s huckleberry jam, in the bottom of its jar.

“Missus Higgins says to send back the empty jar,” Jemmy informed me, handing it over. Only one eye was on the jar; the other was on the Big Log, which had been hidden by darkness the night before. “Wow! What kind of tree is that?”

“Poplar,” I said, closing my eyes in ecstasy at the first bite of sausage. The Big Log was roughly sixty feet long. It had been a good bit longer, before Jamie had scavenged wood from the top for building and fires. “Your grandfather says it was likely more than a hundred feet tall before it fell.”

Mandy was trying to get up onto the log; Jem gave her a casual boost, then leaned over to look down the length of the trunk, mostly smooth and pale, but scabbed here and there with remnants of bark and odd little forests of toadstools and moss.

“Did it blow down in a storm?”

“Yes,” I said. “The top had been struck by lightning, but I don’t know whether that was the same storm that knocked it down. It might have died because of the lightning and then the next big storm blew it over. Mandy, be careful there!”

She’d scrambled to her feet and was walking along the trunk, arms stretched out like a gymnast, one foot in front of the other. The trunk was a good five feet in diameter at that point; there was plenty of room atop it, but it would be a hard bump if she fell off.

“Here, sweetheart.” Roger, who had been looking at the house with interest, came over and plucked her off the log. “Why don’t you and Jem go gather wood for Grannie? D’ye remember what good firewood looks like?”

“Aye, of course.” Jem looked lofty. “I’ll show her how.”

“I knows how!” Mandy said, glowering at him.

“You have to look out for snakes,” he informed her.

She perked up at once, pique forgotten.

“Wanna see a snake!”

“Jem—“ Roger began, but Jemmy rolled his eyes. “_I_ know, Dad,” he said. “If I find a little one, I’ll let her touch it, but not if it’s got rattles or a cotton mouth.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Roger muttered, watching them go off hand in hand.

I swallowed the last of the corn dodgers, licked sugary jam from the corner of my mouth and gave him a sympathetic look.

“Nobody died the last time you lived here,” I reminded him.





Excerpt "Gaelic"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #GaelicLessons

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 _Gaidhlig_.”

“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.







Excerpt "A man is never alone if he has books" 

Jamie sank slowly into the big chair by the fire, half-enjoying the pain as his joints relaxed, both mind and knees knowing that the bliss of rest was at hand. The household was abed, Claire gone to a birthing at the Stocketts’, near the bottom of the cove. He missed her, but it was a pleasant pain, like the stretch in his backbone. She would be back, likely tomorrow. For now, he had a good fire warming his feet, a glass of soft red wine, and books to hand. He took the spectacles from his pocket, unfolded them and settled them on his nose.

The house’s entire library stood in a modest pile on the table beside his wine glass. A small Bible bound in green cloth, very much the worse for wear. He touched it gently, as he did every time he saw it; it was an old companion—a friend that had seen him through many bad times. A coverless copy of _Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress_…he’d best take that one up to the bedroom; Jem hadn’t shown any interest in it yet, but the lad could certainly read well enough to make out what it was about if he did.

A not-bad copy of Mr. Pope’s translation of _The Iliad_—maybe he’d read a bit of that with Jem; he’d likely find the ships interesting, and it would be an excuse to cram a bit of Latin into the lad’s head while they were about it. _Joseph Andrews_… a waste of paper, that one; he’d maybe trade it to Hugh Grant, who liked silliness. Manon Lescaut, in French and a fine morocco binding. He frowned briefly at that one; he’d not opened it. John Grey had sent it to him, before…





Excerpt "Mucus membrane"

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 I was showing Fanny how to use the microscope, reveling in her shocked delight at the worlds within—though in some instances, it was plain shock, as when she discovered what was swimming in our drinking water.

 “Don’t worry,” I assured her.  “Most of them are quite harmless and your stomach acid will dissolve them.  Mind, there _are_ nasty things in water sometimes, particularly if it’s had excrement in it—sh!t, I mean,” I added, seeing her lips silently frame “excrement”.  Then the rest of what I’d said struck her and her eyes went round.

 “Acid?” she said, and looked down, clutching her midsection.  “In my _stomach_?
 “Well, yes,” I said, careful not to laugh.  She had a sense of humor, but was still very tentative in this new life, and feared being laughed at or made fun of.   “It’s how you digest your food.”

 “But it’s…” she stopped, frowning.  “It’s…thr—_strong_.  Acid.  It eats right through…things.”  She’d gone pale under the light tan the mountain sun had given her.

 “Yes,” I said, eyeing her.  “Your stomach has very thick walls, though, and they’re covered in mucus, so—“

 “My stomach is full of _snot_?”  She sounded so horrified that I had to bite my tongue and turn away for a moment, under the pretext of fetching a clean slide.

 “Well, you find mucus pretty much all over the insides of your body,” I said, having got control of my face.  “You have what are called mucous membranes; those secrete mucus wherever you need a bit of slipperiness.”

 “Oh.”  Her face went blank, and then she looked down below her clutching hands.  “Is it—is that what you have between your legs?  To make you…slippery when…”

 “Yes,” I said hastily.  “And when you’re pregnant, the slipperiness helps the baby come out.  The mucous membranes in your mouth and throat are slippery so that your food will slide down easily when you swallow, and there are other mucous membranes lining the peritoneum—that’s the cavity of your body, and covering your heart and your lungs, so that all the organs can move easily against each other.  I’ll show them to you, next time we butcher a hog.”






Excerpt "Ian and Rachel"

It was maybe an hour later when the darkness near her moved and Ian was suddenly there beside her, a warm spot in the night.

“Is Oggy awake?” she asked, drawing her shawl around her.

“Nay, lass, he’s sleeping like a stone.”

“And thy friends?”

“Much the same. I gave them a bit of Uncle Jamie’s whisky.”

“How very hospitable of thee, Ian.”

“That wasna exactly my intention, but I suppose I should take credit for it, if it makes ye think more highly of me.”

He brushed the hair behind her ear, bent his head and kissed the side of her neck, making his intention clear. She hesitated for the briefest instant, but then ran her hand up under his shirt and gave herself over, lying back on her shawl beneath the star-strewn sky.

_Let it be just us, once more_, she thought. _If he thinks of her, let him not do it now_.



Excerpt "Hal to John" 

This was added by Diana on April 27th 2018

He’d just begun to let the brandy settle in his limbs, the warmth of it softening his thoughts, when John spoke again.
“Have you decided to write to Minnie, then?” His brother’s voice was casual, but the question wasn’t.
“I haven’t.”
“But you—oh. I see, you mean you haven’t quite decided, which is why you were hovering over that sheet of paper like a vulture waiting for something to die.”
Hal opened his eyes and sat up straight, fixing John with the sort of look meant to shut him up like a portmanteau. John, though, picked up the bottle and refilled Hal’s cup.
“I know,” he said simply. “I wouldn’t want to, either. But you think Ben’s really dead, then?”
“No!” Hal’s hand clenched on the cup and it nearly popped out of his hand. He saved it with no more than a splash of brandy landing on his waistcoat, which he ignored.
“It’s only that I’ve never seen you begin any letter, to anyone, with the salutation, “Dear”.” John was watching him, his own expression deliberately blank.
“I don’t need to,” Hal said irritably. “Beasley does all that nonsense when it’s official, and if it’s not, whoever I’m writing to already knows who they are, for God’s sake. Pointless affectation.”
John made a non-committal “hm” noise and took a swig of brandy, holding it meditatively in his mouth. Hal noticed that the quill had made an inky spot on the table where he’d dropped it. He stuffed the quill back into its jar and rubbed at the mark with the side of his hand.
“It was just—I couldn’t think how to begin, dammit.”
“Don’t blame you.”
Hal glanced at the sheet of paper, with its accusatory salutation.
“So I…wrote… “M”. Just to get started, you know, and then I had to decide whether to go on and write out her name, or leave it at “M”…” His voice died away, his throat suddenly tight.
He’d called Esmè that—“Em”. And he’d been accustomed to write notes to her beginning that way—just an “M”, with no other salutation. How was he to say that seeing the single letter, black and bold against the white paper, had brought it all back with the unexpected suddenness of a bullet in the heart?





Excerpt "William"

#DailyLines  #Book9  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #William

“Don’t be a fool,” he muttered to himself, “You know Papa wouldn’t…”  “_Papa_” stuck like a thorn in his throat and he swallowed.

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 the other gentleman?”

 “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.





Excerpt "Jamie and brianna"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #JamieAndBrianna   #Dreams   #justasnip

“Did your Mam ever tell ye of the dream I had?  Soon after ye…went away.”  He couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder, to be sure no one was in earshot.

 “No.”  She was looking at him with deep interest, a small line between her brows, and he couldn’t help smiling at her.  “Was it a funny dream?” she asked.

 “Och, no.  I was only smiling because ye looked so much like Claire, there.   When she’s trying to puzzle out what’s the matter with someone, I mean.”

 She didn’t laugh, but the transitory dimple that sometimes appeared in her right cheek flashed for an instant.

 “Nobody ever says I look like Mama,” she said.  “They carry on all the time about how much like you I look.”

 “Oh, ye look like your mother often,” he assured her.  “It’s just that it’s no a matter of hair or eyes or how tall ye are.  It’s the look on your face when ye touch Jem or Mandy—or when ye’re talkin’ with Roger Mac in the evening on the porch, and the light of the moon in your eyes.”  

His own voice had gown soft and husky, and he looked down at the ground, the plastering of layer upon layer of dead leaves, like dying stars beneath his boots.

“Ye look like your mother in love, is all I mean.  Exactly like her.”





Excerpt "Beelore"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #nonotthisyear  #itsgoingwellbutnotTHATwell   #beelore

 “Myers said he’s brought you something as well; did he tell you?”

“No, not yet.  Did he say what it was?”  Jamie rose slowly, stretching his back.

“A letter of some kind, he didn’t say from whom.”  I nearly added “Perhaps it’s from Lord John,” because for several years it might have been, and a welcome letter, too, reinforcing the bonds of a long friendship between Jamie and John Grey.  Fortunately, I bit my lip in time.   While the two of them were on speaking terms—just barely—they were no longer friends.  And while I would, if pushed, deny absolutely that it was my fault, it was undeniably on my account.

I kept my eyes on the quail I was cleaning, just in case Jamie might catch a wayward expression on my face, and draw uncomfortable conclusions.   He wasn’t the only person who could read minds, and I’d been looking at his face.  I had a very strong impression that when I had said “letter,” Lord John’s name had leapt to his mind, just as it had to mine.

Brianna came up the slope then, with several loaves of bread in her arms, and I pushed the thought of John Grey hastily out of my mind.

“I’ll do that, Mama,” she said, putting down the bread and nodding at the small heap of feathery bodies.   “Mr. Myers says the sun is coming down and you should go and bless your new bees before they go to sleep.”

“Oh,” I said, uncertainly.  I’d kept bees now and then, but the relationship hadn’t been in any way ceremonial.  “Did he happen to say what sort of blessing the bees might have in mind?”

“Not to me,” she said cheerfully, taking the bloody knife from my hand.  “But he probably knows.  He says he’ll meet you in the garden.”









Excerpt "The souls of dogs"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #no   #definitelyno   #positivelyno   #Illtellyouwhenwereclose  #thesoulsofdogs

I looked downhill and saw Jamie emerging from the willow trees that fringed the creek, shooing children ahead of him like a herd of small, disobedient sheep, bumping into each other and giggling.  Not for the first time, I missed Rollo, who would have taken that job in hand—or paw—with gusto, and crossed myself at the thought with a rueful smile.

 “Do you think it’s proper to pray for the soul of an animal?” I asked Roger, who was building up the cook fire, assisted by Mandy, who was helpfully handing him sticks and other objects she thought should be included.   He straightened up, dusting his hands, and smiled at me.

 “I’m thinking that any prayer is a good prayer, but I don’t think Presbyterians have any doctrines concerning animals.  Which animal did ye have in mind?  Because if it’s the White Sow…”

 “No,” I said thoughtfully.  “I’m reasonably sure the White Sow is beyond redemption.  I was thinking of Rollo.”

 “Oh, dogs.  No, sweetheart, the fire’s high enough now—we need to let it burn down a bit so Grannie can have coals to cook our dinner.  Go wash your hands—and maybe your face while you’re about it, aye?”

 “And ask Germain to bring me a bucket of water, will you, Mandy?”  I called after her.   She nodded amiably and skipped off toward the well, Esmeralda in the crook of her arm and her ratty pinafore—now smudged with charcoal-- flapping round her legs.

 “Dogs,” he repeated, turning back to me.  “Well…I once met a Catholic priest in Inverness—he sang in the St. Stephen’s choir, for fun, you know; beautiful baritone—anyway, I took him for a pint one night and in the course of the conversation, we got round to dogs.  He’d just lost one of his pets, a very sweet fluffy wee dog, who’d come with him to practice and curl up by his feet while the singing went on.    So I proposed a toast to Tippy, and everyone in the bar joined in—well, anyway, someone asked Peter—Peter Drummond, Father Pete, they called him—asked him whether dogs have souls.”

 “Well, of course they have.”  Jamie had dispersed his flock and made his way up the hill in time to hear this.   “How could ye look into a dog’s eyes and doubt it?”

 “Good point,” I said.  “Though the question was—wait.  Why are you wet?”  He was barefooted, the hem of his kilt dark and dripping.

 “I had to wade out into the creek to fetch wee Orrie Higgins.  He took a fright when Myers came into the water, and—“

 “John Quincy is in the creek?”

 “Aye, washing himself and his clothes.  Amy Higgins gave him a bit of soft soap for the job.  What is it about dogs’ souls?”

 “I was wondering if it’s proper to pray for the soul of a dog,” I explained.  “Rollo, you know…”

 “If ever I met a dog with a better chance at heaven, I canna recall it.”  Jamie shook his head.  “He was a good dog.”

“Yes, he was,” Roger agreed.  “But I was just telling Claire the views of a priest I knew.   He said that dogs are pure love and thus when they die, they’re instantly in the presence of God.  So theoretically, they wouldn’t need praying for.”

Jamie made a Scottish sound of approval at this bit of theological reasoning.

“I want a dog!”  Mandy said, appearing with Germain and the bucket of water,   “Can we has a dog, Daddy?”

“Later,” Roger said, adding with low cunning, “Ask your mother.”

“We need a house first,” I told her.  “The dog will need a place to sleep.”

“It can sleep wif me!”

“It might eat Esmeralda,” Germain said, teasing.  Mandy clutched the doll to her chest, scowling at him.

“No!   Grannie, tell him no!”

“Germain, or the dog?” I inquired.  “Jamie, help me with this, will you?  And where are Jem and Fanny?”

[And thanks to Cheryl Brady for the lovely bee close-up!]





Excerpt "Roger wakes up"

DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #BookNine #Nopenopenopitynopenopenope #Illtellyouwhenitsdone#InHonorOf30YEARSDoingThisStuff #RogerWakesUpInANewOldPlace
#MinorSpoilers

[Copyright 2018 Diana Gabaldon]

[On March 6th, 1988, I started writing a book for practice. That turned out to be OUTLANDER, and _now_ look where we are….! So in honor of the occasion <cough>, here is (what I think will be) Roger’s first scene from BEES…]

Sheer exhaustion made Roger sleep like the dead, in spite of the fact that the MacKenzies’ bed consisted of two ragged quilts that Amy Higgins had hastily dragged out of her piecework bag, these laid over a week’s worth of the Higginses ‘dirty laundry, and the MacKenzies’ outer clothing as blankets. It was a warm bed, though, with the heat of the smoored fire on one side, and the body heat of two children and a snuggly wife on the other, and he fell into sleep like a man falling down a well, with time for no more than the briefest prayer—though a profound one--of gratitude.

_We made it. Thanks._

He woke to darkness and the smell of burnt wood and a freshly-used chamber-pot, feeling a sudden chill behind him. He had lain down with his back to the fire, but had rolled over during the night, and now saw the sullen glow of the last embers a couple of feet from his face, faint crimson veins in a bank of charcoal and gray ash. He put a hand behind him; Brianna was gone. There was a vague heap that must be Jem and Mandy at the far side of the quilt and the rest of the cabin was still somnolent, the air thick with heavy breathing.

“Bree?” he whispered, raising himself on one elbow. She was close—a solid shadow with her bottom braced against the wall by the hearth, one foot raised as she pulled on a stocking.

She put down the foot and crouched beside him, fingers brushing his face.

“I’m going hunting with Da,” she whispered, bending close. “Mama will watch the kids, if you have things to do today.”

“Aye. Where did ye get—“ he ran a hand down the side of her hip; she was wearing a thick hunting shirt and loose breeches, much patched; he could feel the roughness of the stitching under his palm.

“They’re Da’s,” she said, and kissed him, the tinge of ember-light glisking in her hair. “Go back to sleep. It won’t be dawn for another hour.”

He watched her step lightly through the bodies on the floor, boots in her hand, and a cold draft snaked through the room as the door opened and closed soundlessly behind her. Bobby Higgins said something in a sleep-slurred voice, and one of the little boys sat up, said “What?”in a clear, startled voice and then flopped back into his quilt, dormant once more.

The fresh air vanished into the comfortable fug and the cabin slept. Roger didn’t. He lay on his back, feeling peace, relief, excitement and trepidation in roughly equal proportions.

They really had made it.

All of them. He kept counting them, compulsively. All four of them. Here, and safe.

Fragmented memories and sensations jostled through his mind; he let them flow through him, not trying to stay them or catch more than an image here and there: The feel of a small gold bar in his sweaty hand, the lurch of his stomach when he’d dropped it and it slid out of his reach across the tilting deck. The warm steam of parritch with whisky on it, fortification against a freezing Scottish morning. Brianna hopping carefully down a flight of stairs on one foot, the bandaged one lifted and the words of “My Dame Hath a Lame, Tame Crane” coming irresistibly to his mind. The smell of Buck’s hair, acrid and unwashed, as they embraced each other on the edge of a dock and a final farewell. Cold, endless days and nights in the lurching hold of the Constance on their way to Charles Town, the four of them huddled in a corner, deafened by the smash of water against the hull, too seasick to be hungry, too exhausted anymore even to be terrified, hypnotized instead by the rising water in the hold, watching it inch higher, splashing them with each sickening roll, trying to share their pitiful store of body heat to keep the kids alive…

He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, put his hands on the solid wooden floor to either side, closed his eyes and let it all drain away.

No looking back. They’d made their decision, and they’d made it here. To sanctuary.

_So now, what?_

He’d lived in this cabin once, for a long time. Now he supposed he’d build a new one; Jamie had told him last night that the land Jamie had given him was still his, registered in his name.

A small glow of anticipation rose in his heart. The day lay before him; what should he do first?

“Daddy!” a voice with a lot of spit whispered loudly in his ear. “Daddy, I haveta go potty!”

He sat up smiling, pushing tangled cloaks and shirts out of the way. Mandy was hopping from foot to foot in agitation, a small black chickadee, solid against the shadows.

“Aye, sweetheart,” he whispered back, and took her hand, warm and sticky. “I’ll take ye to the privy. Try not to step on anybody.”

[end section]





Excerpt "Letter from "Lord John"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #dontholdyourbreath  #itllbeawhile   #Season3DVDsoutsoon   #thatshouldkeepyoubusyforawhile

 John Grey took up his pen-knife—a small French thing cased in rosewood and extremely sharp—and cut a fresh quill with a sense of anticipation.  In the course of his life to date, he reckoned that he’d written more than a hundred letters to Jamie Fraser, and had always experienced a slight _frisson_ at the thought of impending connection—whatever the nature of that connection might be.  It always happened, no matter whether the letters were written in friendship, in affection--or in anxious warning, in anger, or in longings that went up in flames and the smell of burning, leaving bitter ash behind.   

This one, though, would be different.

[date]

To James Fraser, Fraser’s Ridge
 Royal Colony of North Carolina

he wrote, envisioning Jamie in his chosen habitat amid the wilderness, his hands hard and smooth with callus and his hair bound back with a leather lace, companion to Indians, wolves and bears.  And his female accoutrements, to be sure…  

From Lord John Grey, [street, house]
Savannah, Royal Colony of Georgia

He wanted to begin with the salutation, “My dear Jamie”, but he hadn’t yet earned back the right to do that.   He would, though.

“In another thousand years or so…” he murmured, dipping the quill again.  “Or…maybe sooner.”

Ought it to be “General Fraser”?

“Ha,” he muttered.  No point in putting the man’s back up _a priori_…






Excerpt "How many holes"

#DailyLines   #BookNine   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #practicalconcerns   #howmanyholes  

 Roger had seen Jamie disappear quietly into the shadows behind the half-built chimney, and assumed that he’d gone for a piss.  But when he didn’t reappear within a few minutes, Roger detached himself from the conversation—this presently centering on the infinite possibilities for wee Oglethorpe’s eventual real name—and followed his father-in-law into the gloaming.

 He found Jamie standing on the edge of a large rectangular hole in the ground, evidently lost in contemplation of its depths.

 “New privy?” he asked, nodding into the pit.  Jamie looked up, smiling at sight of him, and Roger felt a rush of warmth—on more than one account.

 “Aye.  I’d only meant it to be the usual, ken, wi’ a single seat of ease.”  Jamie gestured at the hole, the last of the sun touching his hair and skin with a golden light.  “But with four more—and maybe yet more, in time?  As ye say ye mean to stay, I mean.” He glanced sideways at Roger, and the smile came again.

 “Then there’s the folk who come to see Claire, too.  One of the Crombie boys came down last week, to get a remedy for a case o’ the blazing shits, and he spent so long gruntin’ and groanin’ in Bobby Higgins’ privy that the family were all havin’ to trot into the woods, and Annie wasna best pleased at the state of the privy when he left, I can tell ye.”

 Roger nodded.

 “So, ye mean to make it bigger, or make two privies?
 “Aye, that’s the question.”  Jamie seemed pleased that Roger had grasped the essence of the situation so quickly.  “See, most o’ the places wi’ families have a necessary that will accommodate two at once—the MacHughes have a three-hole privy, and a thing of beauty it is, too; Sean MacHugh is a canny man with his tools, and a good thing, what wi’ seven bairns.  But the thing is—“  He frowned a little and turned to look back toward the fire, presently hidden behind the dark bulk of the chimney stack.  “The women, ken?”

 “Claire and Brianna, you mean.”  Roger took Jamie’s meaning at once.  “Aye, they’ve notions of privacy.  But a wee latch on the inside of the door…?”

 “Aye, I thought of that.”  Jamie waved a hand, dismissing it.  “The difficulty’s more what they think of….germs.”  He pronounced the word very carefully, and glanced quickly at Roger under his brows, as though to see if he’d said it right, or as if he weren’t sure it was a real word to start with.

 “Oh.  Hadn’t thought of that.  Ye mean the sick folk who come—they might leave…” he waved his own hand toward the hole.

 “Aye.  Ye should ha’ seen the carry-on when Claire insisted on scalding Annie’s privy wi’ boiling water and lye soap and pourin’ turpentine into it after the Crombie lad left.” His shoulders rose toward his ears in memory.  “If she was to do that every time we had sick folk in our privy, we’d all be shitting in the woods, too.”

 He laughed, though, and so did Roger.

 “Both, then,” Roger said.  “Two holes for the family, and a separate privy for visitors—or rather, for the surgery—say it’s for convenience.   Ye don't want to seem high-falutin’ by not letting people use your own privy.”

 “No, that wouldna do at all.”  Jamie vibrated briefly, then stilled, but stayed for a moment, looking down, a half-smile still on his face.  The smells of damp, fresh-dug earth and newly-sawn wood rose thick around them, mingling with the scent of the fire, and Roger could almost imagine that he felt the house solidifying out of the smoke.

 Jamie left off what he was thinking, then, and turned his head to look at Roger.

 “I missed ye, Roger Mac,” he said.



Excerpt "Fathers and more Fathers"

#DailyLines #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #William #MemoriesofEllesmereEstate #Fathers#AndMoreFathers
#NOitisntdoneyet #NOIdontknowwhen #NOIdontknowhowmanypagesithas #Patienceisavirtueyouknow

The upper hall. A broad, square open staircase led upward to the second floor. Here the roof soared high overhead, and a gallery surrounded the stairwell on three sides, with tall windows on one side and various portraits on the other three walls.

“Isobel told me this was painted soon after Geneva’s marriage,” Lord John had said, nodding to the portrait of a very beautiful young woman. The painter hadn’t been particularly skilled—the woman’s hair was simply dark, some color between brown and black, and her gown clumsily rendered—but William recognized her face; the same face he’d seen every day for years, in a miniature he’d carried with him from home to London, to school, and even to the plantation in Virginia.

He thought the painter had loved her, perhaps, been attracted by her, at least; the face was done with both care and feeling.

“Someone told me I have her mouth,” he said, softly, as though not to startle her.

“You have,” said Lord John, raising a brow. “Who told you that?”

“Mother Isobel.” He turned away from the portrait, feeling suddenly unsettled. “It seems strange to see her—Mother Geneva—here, alone.” There were several portraits of her at Helwater—but always portraits done with her younger sister, with her parents. Even the portraits of her by herself were always side by side with similar portraits of Isobel.

“So it does.” Lord John spoke softly, too. It was quiet as a church here on the landing, an illusion enhanced by the tall, quiet windows with their stained-glass borders. _And by the fact that everybody in these pictures is dead…_

He turned restlessly away, toward the opposite wall, across the open well of the staircase. The wall there was dominated by a large portrait of an elderly man in a formal wig and the robes of an Earl. Not bad looking for his age, William thought. Bit of a tough, though, from his expression. The thought made William smile.

“That’s him, is it? My father?”

“The eighth earl of Ellesmere,” Lord John said, nodding at the portrait. “That portrait was done perhaps ten years before his death.”

His father—he stopped himself, feeling odd. Here he was, standing with his father, the only father he’d ever known, discussing his real father, whom he’d never known. And never really would, he supposed. He glanced at Lord John.

“What…was he like? Did you know him?”

Lord John pursed his lips and shook his head.

“I met him, once. In London, years ago. We happened to find ourselves in the gardens at a ball of some sort, and had a brief conversation.” He paused, his brow wrinkling in thought, then glanced at William, smiling a little.

“I was going to say, ‘a conversation of the sort one has with a total stranger under such circumstances,’ but you know…it really wasn’t. He—“ he nodded at the portrait, with an air of what William thought was respect. “He wasn’t given to courtly manners. Which, as you’ll soon discover, are designed to conceal one’s true thoughts. But old Rudyard wasn’t one to bother concealing his thoughts. At all.”

That sounded promising, but William merely lifted an eyebrow, not wanting to derail his father’s apparent train of thought by asking directly. Lord John caught the look, and—to William’s surprise—laughed.

“He liked women,” Lord John said. “In the physical sense; he wasn’t the sort of man to make a friend of a woman. The first thing he said to me was, ‘See that one in the violet dress? D’ye think her bosom’s real?”

“Was it?”

Lord John coughed circumspectly.

“I opined that if it were, I thought she would be showing more of it. He agreed with me, and we spent several enjoyable moments in frank evaluation of our fellow guests before our hostess turned up and chivvied me away to dance with someone.”






Excerpt "Blue light"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine   #definitelynotfinished   #maybelatethisyear  #MAYBE  #maybenot  #eventuallythough   #Illletyouknow

 “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 "Diana's birthday"

“Lie down,” I said firmly, and pointed to my lap.

“Nay, I’ll be f—“

“I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said. “I said, lie down.”

“I’ve work to—“

“You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said. “Lie. Down.”

He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue. He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly. He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.

I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait. I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair. It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.

“Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me. He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ‘til his head rested heavy in my lap. I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw. Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp. He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.

“Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs. “Here?”

“Aye…but…” He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye. “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”

“Mmm.” I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull. I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin. “Well, then.”

I took my hands away and he let his breath out.

“It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.

“It _does_ hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.

“I know.” I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air. “I’ll make it better.”

He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples. I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath. I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished. For now, though…


“Do you remember,” I said, my voice low and quiet. “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning? And how his mother came and combed your hair?”

“Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “She said…she would comb the snakes from my hair.” Another hesitation. “She…did.”

Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it. How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart. Guilt, distress…and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.

There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there. I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little. I put my other hand on his shoulder.

“Shh. Breathe.”

His breath came with a small moan, but he did. I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch. He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.

“Let me do that for you,” I said softly. The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment. With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.

“I…no, I dinna want…” But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin. Over and over, very slowly.

I didn’t say anything for quite some time. He breathed. The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.

“Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window. “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me. Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better. But say it.”

His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh. After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.

“Sassenach?” he said softly.

“Mm?”

“I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”

He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.






Excerpt "Jenny's rosary"

(This excerpt was found on Facebook. And is very telling)

Spoiler alert! New excerpt from Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone

          Jenny laughed, and he realized belatedly that he’d seen no goat droppings at all in his survey of the meadow.  She hadn’t been bringing her nannies up here regularly, then.  And therefore…she’d come after him a-purpose.  She had a thing to tell him, maybe, in private.

          He cleared his throat, and touched his chest, where the wooden rosary hung beneath his shirt.

          “Pray, ye said.   D’ye want to tell the beads together, then?  Like we used to?”

          She looked surprised, and for a moment, dubious.  But then made up her mind and nodded, reaching into her pocket.

          “Aye, I would.  And since ye mention…there was a thing I meant to ask ye, Jamie.”

          “Aye, what?”

          To his surprise, she drew out a string of gleaming pearls, the gold crucifix and medal bright in the rising sun.

          “Ye brought your good rosary?” he asked.  “I didna ken that—thought ye’d have left it for one of your lasses.”   “Good” was putting it lightly.  That rosary had been made in France, and likely cost as much as  a good saddle-horse—if not more.  It was their mother’s rosary—Brian had given it to Jenny when he’d given Ellen’s pearl necklace to Jamie.

          His sister grimaced and looked halfway apologetic.  “If I gave it to any one o’ them, the others would take it amiss.  I dinna want them to be fighting over such a thing.”
////
          “Keep it for me,” she said, matter-of-factly, “and if I dinna come back, give it to Mandy, when she’s old enough.”

          “Jenny…” he said softly.

          “See, when ye come to reckon your life,” she said briskly, stooping to pick up the goat’s rope, “ye see that it’s the bairns are most important.   They carry your blood and they carry whatever else ye gave them, on into the time ahead.”  Her voice was perfectly steady, but she cleared her throat with a tiny, “Hem,” before going on.

          “Mandy’s the farthest out, aye?” she said.   “As far as I can reach.  The youngest girl of Mam’s blood.  Let her take it on, then.”

          He swallowed, hard.

          “I will,” he said, and closed his hand over the beads, warm from his sister’s touch, warm with her prayers.   “I swear, sister.”

          “Well, I ken  that, clot-heid,” she said, smiling up at him.  “Come and help me catch these goats.”





Excerpt 'William's dilemma'

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine   #Noitisntfinished  #dontbesilly   #itsabigbook  #GoBingeWatchSeasonThree    #WilliamsDilemma

“The boy needs help,” Hal observed.

 “True,” John said, and sighed.  “But he’s a man, if you hadn’t noticed.”

 “Actually, I had, but I wasn’t sure you had—you being his father, I mean.  One tends not to see that about one’s sons.”  

“Or one’s daughters, I suppose,” John said, not taking any pains to remove the edges of the remark.   He wasn’t in a mood to consider Hal’s feelings.

Hal made a grimace that ended as a pained half-smile.  “Did I tell you that Hunter writes to me, once or twice a month?”

“No.”  John was mildly startled by this.  “He’s a Continental army captain, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is—though against his will.  They don’t believe in rank.  Friends, I mean.”

This was said very casually, and John gave his brother a look, which Hal avoided by picking up a sheaf of orders and flicking through it.

“And his purpose in writing to you is…?”  He couldn’t think Denzell Hunter had any hopes of appealing to Hal’s better nature.

“To inform me that Dottie is well.”  Hal laid down the papers and gave John back the look.  “Nothing more.  That’s all he says—‘Dorothea is in good health, though somewhat tired.’  Or ‘Your daughter is well, Yours in Christ, Denzell Hunter.”

There was a silence, during which the shouts of a drill sergeant echoed like the distant calls of some large bird of hysterical temperament.

“Why do you suppose he does it?” John asked finally.  “Religious conviction on his part, persuasion by Dottie—does she ever write, herself, by the way?—or an attempt at reconciliation by the water-dropping-on-stone method?”

“She’s written once.”  Hal’s face softened a little at the thought.  “Though she didn’t say a great deal more than he has.  As for Hunter…I honestly don’t think he has unscrupulous designs upon my fortune, or anything of that kind.”

“I shouldn’t think so,” John said dryly.  He hadn’t known many Friends personally, but the whole experience of Dottie’s wedding had convinced him that they tended to mean what they said about avoiding the vanities of the world.  As for Denzell Hunter, beyond his own brief observations of the man—all favorable—his bona fides were vouched for by two of the few people in the world whom John trusted:  Dottie, and Jamie Fraser.

Thought of Jamie Fraser necessarily recalled his attention to William.

“You’re right about his needing help,” he said, trusting in his brother’s ability always to know what he was talking about.  “How, though?  He understands the nature of his dilemma as well as we do—possibly better, as it’s his.  And knowing his nature as well as I do, I’m sure that any attempt to convince him that his responsibility lies in taking up the duties of his title would be worse than futile.”

“Well,” Hal said thoughtfully, “any attempt by _us_, yes.”

John raised a brow.

“Who else did you have in mind?  Dottie?  He might listen to her, but she wouldn’t try to persuade him to go back to England.  Under her pernicious influence—and Denzell’s—he’d probably end up as King of America.”





Excerpt "William in Virginia"

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That thought was too much. William stood up and dropped his blanket, dozens of small white moths rising startled from the grass and flitting inquisitively round his face. He ignored these, pulled on his boots and strode off.

He didn’t care where he was going. His limbs felt as though he’d been headed up in a barrel all night, cramped and tingling with a fierce need to move. The smoking fires glowed and flickered under the big oak, and the savory smell of the meat made his stomach growl. One of the Indians was asleep beside the fire, rolled in a blanket; he couldn’t tell which.

Turning his back on the fire, he headed toward the fields that lay behind the house. Mount Josiah had boasted only a score of acres in tobacco when he had known it years before; was the land even cultivated now?

Rather to his surprise, it was. The stalks had been harvested, but the ground was littered with shed leaves and fragments; the sap-thick smell of uncured tobacco lay like incense on the night. The scent soothed him, and he made his way slowly across the field, toward the black shape of the tobacco barn. Was it still in use?

It was. Called a barn for courtesy’s sake, it was little more than a large shed, but the back of it was a large, airy space where the stalks were hung for stripping—there were only a few there now, dangling from the rafters, barely visible against the faint starlight that leaked through the wide-set boards. His entrance caused the dried, stacked leaves on the broad curing platform at one side to stir and rustle, as though the shed took notice of him. It was an odd fancy, but not disturbing—he nodded to the dark, half-conscious of welcome.

He bumped into something that shied away with a hollow sound—an empty barrel. Feeling about, he counted more than a score, some filled, some waiting. Some old, a few new ones, judging by the smell of new wood that added its tang to the shed’s perfume.

Someone was working the plantation—and it wasn’t Manoke. The Indian enjoyed smoking tobacco now and then, but William had never seen him take any part in the raising or harvesting of the crop. Neither did he reek of it. It wasn’t possible to touch green tobacco without a black, sticky sort of tar adhering to your hands, and the smell in a ripe tobacco field was enough to make a grown man’s head swim.

When he had lived here with Lord John—the name caused a faint twinge, but he ignored it—his father had hired laborers from the adjoining property upriver, a large place called Bobwhite, who could easily tend Mt. Josiah’s modest crop in addition to Bobwhite’s huge output. Perhaps the same arrangement was still in place?

The thought that the plantation was still working, even in this ghostly fashion, heartened him a little; he’d thought the place quite abandoned when he saw the ruined house. Curious, he felt his way out of the tobacco barn and turned west, trampling through the shattered remnants of tobacco stalk, toward the higher fields that were used for less valuable crops. Yes, these too had been planted and harvested; by the pale light of a rising half-moon, he saw corn, stooked and standing in rows like small, ragged men. He circled the corn and came down along the river fields—they’d tried to grow rice one year, but it hadn’t answered, he didn’t remember why…a long stretch of fallow ground, thick with weeds and drying grass, and then he turned away from the river and found himself walking over crackling dry stems with a strong, familiar smell….what…oh, flax. Of course.

He smiled at the memory of being allowed to help thresh the flax; they’d put the bundles of dried stems in rough cloth bags and laid them on the tiny brick landing, and then he and Papa and Manoke and Jim and Peter---yes, Jim and Peter, that was right, the two black servants--had jumped up and down on them, trod to and fro, and ended by dancing a riotous quadrille atop the filthy, foot-marked bags. Quite a lot of beer had been drunk; he could taste the mingled fumes of yeast and alcohol on the back of his tongue, and a hint of flax-seed oil that always made him think of paintings.

A dark figure loomed suddenly out of the dark before him, and he yelped and threw himself to one side, scrabbling hastily up onto all fours, groping wildly for a stick, a rock, a—

“_Tabernac+, is that you, _Gillaume_? I mean…”

“It’s me,” William said shortly, dropping the handful of gravel and leaves he’d grabbed. He panted for a moment, hands on his knees, before adding, “I thought you were a bear.”






Excerpt Briana and Jamie 

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It was a steep climb, and she found herself puffing, sweat starting to purl behind her ears in spite of the cool day.   Her father climbed, as ever, like a mountain goat, without the slightest appearance of strain, but—to her chagrin—noticed her struggling and beckoned her aside, onto a small ledge.

“We’re in nay hurry, _a nighean_,” he said, smiling at her.  “There’s water here.”  He reached out, with an obvious tentativeness, and touched her flushed cheek, quickly taking back his hand.

“Sorry, lass,” he said, and smiled.  “I’m no used yet to the notion that ye’re real.”

“I know what you mean,” she said softly, and swallowing, reached out and touched his face, warm and clean-shaven, slanted eyes deep blue as hers.

“Och,” he said under his breath, and gently brought her into his arms.  She hugged him tight and they stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.

“[_Come and drink, a nighean_, [Gaelic]]” he said, letting go as gently as he’d grasped her, and turning her toward a tiny freshet that ran down a crevice between two rocks.  Come and drink.

The water was icy and tasted of granite and the faint turpentine tang of pine needles.

She’d slaked her thirst and was splashing water on her flushed cheeks when she felt her father make a sudden movement.  She froze at once, cutting her eyes at him.  He also stood frozen, but lifted both eyes and chin a little, signaling to the slope above them.

She saw—and heard—it then, a slow crumble of falling dirt that broke loose and hit the ledge beside her foot with a tiny rattle of pebbles.  This was followed by silence, except for the calling of the ravens.  That was louder, she thought, as though the birds were nearer.  _They see something_, she thought.

They _were_ nearer.  A raven swooped suddenly, flashing unnervingly near her head, and another screamed from above.

A sudden boom from the outcrop overhead nearly made her lose her footing, and she grabbed a handful of sapling sticking out of the rock-face by reflex.  Just in time, too, for there was a thump and a slithering noise above and at what seemed the same instant, something huge fell past in a shower of dirt and gravel, bouncing off the ledge next to her in an explosion of breath, blood and impact before landing with a crash in the bushes below.

 “Blessed Michael defend us,” said her father in Gaelic, crossing himself.   He peered down into the thrashing brush below—Jesus, whatever it was, was still alive—then up.

“[Mohawk!]”  said an impassioned male voice from above.   She didn’t recognize the word, but she did know the voice and joy burst over her.

“Ian!” she called.  There was total silence from above, save for the ravens, who were getting steadily more upset.

“Blessed Michael defend us,” said a startled voice in Gaelic, and an instant later, her cousin Ian had dropped onto their narrow ledge, where he balanced with no apparent difficulty.   

“It _is_ you!” she said.  “Oh, Ian!”

“[Cousin!]”  He grabbed her and squeezed tight, laughing in disbelief.  “God, it’s you!”  He drew back for an instant for a good look to confirm it, laughed again in delight, kissed her solidly and re-squeezed.  He smelled like buckskin, porridge and gunpowder and she could feel his heart thumping against her own chest.

She vaguely heard a scrabbling noise and as they let go of each other, realized that her father had dropped off the ledge and was half-sliding down the scree below it, toward the brush where the deer—it must have been a deer—had fallen.

He halted for a moment at the edge of the brushy growth—the bushes were still thrashing, but the movements of the wounded deer were growing less violent—then drew his dirk and with a muttered remark in Gaelic, waded gingerly into the brush.

“It’s all rose-briers down there,” Ian said, peering over her shoulder.  “But I think he’ll make it in time to cut the throat.  _A Dhia_, it was a bad shot and I was afraid I—but what the dev—I mean, how is it ye’re _here_?”  He stood back a little, his eyes running over her, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly as he noted her breeches and leather hiking shoes, this fading as his eyes returned to her face, worried now.  “Is your man not with you?  And the bairns?”

“Yes, they are,” she assured him.  “Roger’s hammering things and Jem’s helping him and Mandy’s getting in the way.  As for what we’re doing here…”  The day and the joy of reunion had let her ignore the recent past, but the ultimate need of explanation brought the enormity of it all suddenly crashing in upon her.

“Dinna fash, cousin,” Ian said swiftly, seeing her face.  “It’ll bide.  D’ye think ye recall how to shoot a turkey?  There’s a band o’ them struttin’ to and fro like folk dancing Strip the Willow at a ceilidh, not a quarter-mile from here.”

“Oh, I might.”  She’d propped the fowling piece against the cliff-face while she drank; the deer’s fall had knocked it over and she picked it up, checking; the fall had knocked the flint askew, and she re-seated it.   The thrashing below had stopped, and she could hear her father’s voice, in snatches above the wind, saying the gralloch prayer.

“Hadn’t we better help Da with the deer, though?”

“Ach, it’s no but a yearling buck, he’ll have it done before ye can blink.”  Ian leaned out from the ledge, calling down.  “I’m takin’ Bree to shoot turkeys, _a mathair-braither_!”

Dead silence from below, and then a lot of rustling and Jamie’s disheveled head poked suddenly up above the rose-briers.   His hair was loose and tangled, his face was deeply flushed and bleeding in several places, as were his arms and hands, and he looked displeased.

“Ian,” he said, in measured tones, but in a voice loud enough to be easily heard above the forest sounds.  “Mac Ian…mac Ian…!”

“We’ll be back to help carry the meat!” Ian called back.  He waved cheerily, and grabbing the fowling piece, caught Bree’s eye and jerked his chin upward.   She glanced down, but her father had disappeared, leaving the bushes swaying in agitation.

She’d lost much of her eye for the wilderness, she found; the cliff looked impassible to her, but Ian scrambled up as easily as a baboon, and after a moment’s hesitation, she followed, much more slowly, slipping now and then in small showers of dirt as she groped for the holds her cousin had used.

“Ian mac Ian mac Ian?” she asked, reaching the top and pausing to empty the dirt out of her shoes.  Her heart was beating unpleasantly hard. “Is that like me calling Jem Jeremiah [what are his middle names?] MacKenzie when I’m annoyed with him?”

“Something like,” Ian said, shrugging.  “Ian, son of Ian, son of Ian…  the notion is to point out ye’re a disgrace to your forefathers, aye?”  He was wearing a ragged, filthy calico shirt, but the sleeves had been torn off, and she saw a large white scar in the shape of a four-pointed star on the curve of his bare brown shoulder.

“What was that?” she said, nodding at it.  He glanced at it, and made a dismissive gesture, turning to lead her across the small ridge. 

“Ach, no much,” he said.   “An Abenaki bastard shot me wi’ an arrow, at Monmouth.  Denny cut it out for me a few days after—that’s Denzell Hunter,” he added, seeing her blank look.  “Rachel’s brother.  He’s a doctor, like your mam.”

“Rachel!” she exclaimed.  “Da said you got married—Rachel’s your wife?”

A huge grin spread across his face.

“She is,” he said simply.  “_Taing do Dhia_.”  Then looked quickly at her to see if she’d understood.

“I remember ‘Thanks be to God,” she assured him.  “And quite a bit more.  Roger spent most of the voyage from Scotland refreshing our _Gaidhlig_.   Did Da also tell me Rachel’s a Quaker?” she asked, stretching to step across the stones in a tiny brook.

“Aye, she is.”  Ian’s eyes were fixed on the stones, but she thought he spoke with a bit less joy and pride than he’d had a moment before.   She left it alone, though; if there was a conflict—and she couldn’t quite see how there _wouldn’t_ be, given what she knew about her cousin and what she thought she knew about Quakers—this wasn’t the time to ask questions.

Not that such considerations stopped Ian.

“From Scotland?” he said, turning his head to look back at her over his shoulder.  “When?”  Then his face changed suddenly, as he realized the ambiguity of “when,” and he made an apologetic gesture, dismissing the question.

“We left Edinburgh  in late June,” she said, taking the simplest answer for now.  “I’ll tell you the rest later.”

He nodded, and for a time they walked, sometimes together, sometimes with Ian leading, finding deer trails or cutting upward to go around a thick growth of bush.  She was happy to follow him, so she could look at him without embarrassing him with her scrutiny.

He’d changed—no great wonder there—still tall and very lean, but hardened, a man grown fully into himself, the long muscles of his arms clear-cut under his skin.  His brown hair was darker, plaited and tied with a leather thong, and adorned with what looked like very fresh turkey feathers bound into the braid.   _For good luck_? She wondered.  He’d picked up the bow and quiver he’d left at the top of the cliff, and the quiver swung gently now against his back.

_But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face_, she thought, entertained.  _It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists, It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him_.  The poem had always summoned Roger for her, but now it encompassed Ian and her father as well, different as the three of them were.

As they rose higher and the timber opened out, the breeze rose and freshened, and Ian halted, beckoning her with a small movement of his fingers.

“D’ye hear them?” he breathed in her ear.

She did, and the hairs rippled pleasantly down her backbone.  Small, harsh yelps, almost like a barking dog.   And farther off, a sort of intermittent purr, something between a large cat and a small motor.

“Best take off your stockings and rub your legs wi’ dirt,” Ian whispered, motioning toward her woolen stockings.   “Your hands and face as well.”

She nodded, set the gun against a tree, and scratched dry leaves away from a patch of soil, moist enough to rub on her skin.   Ian, his own skin nearly the color of his buckskins, needed no such camouflage.  He moved silently away while she was anointing her hands and face, and when she looked up, she couldn’t see him for a moment.

Then there was a series of sounds like a rusty door hinge swinging to and fro, and suddenly she saw him, standing stock still behind a [tree] some fifty feet away.

The forest seemed to go dead for an instant, the soft scratchings and leaf-murmurs ceasing.  Then there was an angry gobble and she turned her head as slowly as she could, to see a tom turkey poke his pale blue head out of the grass and look sharp from side to side, wattles bright red and swinging, looking for the challenger.

She cut her eyes at Ian, his hands cupped at his mouth, but he didn’t move or make a sound.  She held her breath and looked back at the turkey, who emitted another loud gobble—this one echoed by another tom at a distance.   The turkey she was watching glanced back toward that sound, lifted his head and yelped, listened for a moment, and then ducked back into the grass.  She glanced at Ian; he caught her movement and shook his head, very slightly.

They waited for the space of sixteen slow breaths—she counted—and then Ian gobbled again.   The tom popped out of the grass and strode across a patch of open, leaf-packed ground, blood in his eye, breast feathers puffed and tail fanned out to a fare-thee-well.   He paused for a moment to allow the woods to admire his magnificence, then commenced strutting slowly to and fro, uttering harsh, aggressive cries.

Moving only her eyeballs, she glanced back and forth between the strutting tom and Ian, who timed his movements to those of the strutting turkey, sliding the bow from his shoulder, freezing, bringing an arrow to hand, freezing, and finally nocking the arrow as the bird made its final turn.

Or what should have been its final turn.  Ian bent his bow and in the same movement, released his arrow and uttered a startled, all-too-human yelp as a large, dark object dropped from the tree above him.   He jerked back and the turkey barely missed landing on his head.  She could see it now, a hen, feathers fluffed in fright, running with neck outstretched across the open ground toward the equally startled tom, who had deflated in shock.

By reflex, she seized her shotgun, brought it to bear and fired.  She missed, and both turkeys disappeared into a patch of ferns, making noises that sounded like a small hammer striking a wood block.

The echoes died away and the leaves of the trees settled back into their murmur.   She looked at her cousin, who glanced at his bow, then across the open ground to where his arrow was sticking absurdly out from between two rocks.  He looked at her, and they both burst into laughter.

“Aye, well,” he said philosophically.  “That’s what we get for leavin’ Uncle Jamie to pick roses by himself.”




Excerpt "Boobytrap"

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[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE. Copyright 2017 Diana Gabaldon. Please don't cut and paste the #DailyLines to other sites. You're very welcome to post links from your sites to the lines, though. Thank you!]

Brianna had asked him if he knew what a conduit was. He’d given her a look over his parritch, set down his spoon and obligingly said, “_Sensu aquaeductus_ or _sensu canalis_?” He’d raised his brows. “Aye, I do, lass. Why d’ye ask?”

Not disconcerted in the slightest, she’d taken a bite of toast with honey and dimpled at him while she chewed.

“Because I thought you wouldn’t know what a hose is, but you’d know conduit. Don’t you recognize a rhetorical question when you hear one? After being married to Mama all these years?”

He felt rather than saw Claire cut her eyes at him, and carefully avoided meeting her glance.

“Aye, I do,” he repeated, picking up his spoon again. “And I ken a booby-trap when I see one, too. Do ye think I look like a booby, _mo leannan_?” he asked Amanda, who was sitting across the table from him, next to her mother.

She giggled and dropped her toast in her lap. Honey-side down, of course.

“Booby,” she said happily, disregarding her mother’s cry of dismay. “Booby-Booby-BOOby! GRAMpa’s a BOOby!”

He ought to have felt guilty, but didn’t. He grinned at his wee grand-daughter, and made what he considered a suitably booby-like face, which set Mandy and Jem well off.

“Don’t call your grand-da names, _a bhailach_,” Roger said mildly, putting a hand on Jem’s shoulder to calm him. “It’s no polite, and Grand-da’s not a booby, anyway.”

“Yes, he is,” Brianna said crossly, gingerly lifting the toast in hopes of not spreading the disaster further. “Really, Da!”

“Well, clearly ye think so, too,” he pointed out, “if ye think I’ve never heard the word hose before. I have a pair on, have I not?” He had in fact not yet put his boots on, and now put a stockinged foot out under the table, poking Mandy gently in the knee and provoking a delighted shriek.

“You,” said Claire, coming up behind him and putting her hands on his shoulders with a squeeze. “Stop. You, too,” she added reprovingly to Bree, who’d gone red in the face with a mixture of laughter and aggravation. “He does know what a hose is; he’s seen them on ships.”

“I have?”

“Yes, you have—though I’m not surprised you didn’t notice. The sailors use a hose to spray water on the sails, if they need to stiffen them. Why are you talking about hoses, anyway?” she added over his head to Bree. She didn’t take her hands off him, and he leaned back a little, savoring the warmth of her body on his back and the solid feel of her through her skirts.





Excerpt "Doctor emergency" 

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 I was startled from a solid sleep by Jamie exploding out of bed beside me.  This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but as usual, it left me sitting bolt upright amid the quilts, dry-mouthed and completely dazed, heart hammering like a drill-press.

 He was already down the stairs; I heard the thump of his bare feet on the last few treads—and above that sound, frenzied pounding on the front door.   A ripple of unrest spread through the house: rustling bedclothes, sleepy voices, opening doors.

 I shook my head violently and flung off the covers.  _Him or me?_ was the first coherent thought that formed out of the fog drifting through my brain.  Night alarms like this might be news of violence or misadventure, and sometimes of a nature that required all hands, like a house fire or someone having unexpectedly met with a hunting panther at a spring.  More often, though…

 I heard Jamie’s voice, and the panic left me.  It was low, questioning, with a cadence that meant he was soothing someone.   Someone else was talking, in high-pitched agitation, but it wasn’t the sound of disaster.

 _Me, then.  Childbirth or accident?_  My mind had suddenly resurfaced and was working clearly, even while my body fumbled to and fro, trying to recall what I had done with my grubby stockings.  _Probably birth, in the middle of the night_… But the uneasy thought of fire still lurked on the edge of my thoughts.

 I had a clear picture in my mind of my emergency kit, and was grateful that I’d thought to refurbish it just before supper.  It was sitting ready on the corner of my surgery table.  My mind was less clear about other things; I’d put my stays on backward.  I yanked them off, flung them on the bed, and went to splash water on my face, thinking a lot of things I couldn’t say out loud, as I could hear children’s feet now pattering across the landing.

 I reached the bottom of the stairs belatedly, to find Fanny and Germaine with Jamie, who was talking with a very young girl no more than Fanny’s age, standing barefoot, distraught, and wearing nothing more than a threadbare shift.  I didn’t recognize her.

 “Ach, here’s Herself now,” Jamie said, glancing over his shoulder.  He had a hand on the girl’s shoulder, as though to keep her from flying away.  She looked as if she might: thin as a broomstraw, with baby-fine brown hair tangled by the wind, and eyes looking anxiously in every direction for possible help.

 “This is Annie Cloudtree, Claire,” he said, nodding toward the girl.  “Fanny, will ye find a shawl or something to lend the lass, so she doesna freeze?”

 “I don’t n-need—“ the girl began, but her arms were wrapped around herself and she was shivering so hard that her words shook.

 “Her mother’s with child,” Jamie interrupted her, looking at me.  “And maybe having a bit of trouble with the birth.”

 “We c-can’t p-pay—“

 “Don’t worry about that,” I said, and nodding to Jamie, took her in my arms.   She was small and bony and very cold, like a half-feathered nestling fallen from a tree.

 “It will be all right,” I said softly to her, and smoothed down her hair.  “We’ll go to your mother at once.  Where do you live?”

 She gulped and wouldn’t look up, but was so cold she clung to me for warmth.

 “I don’t know.   I m-mean—I don’t know how to say.   Just—if you can come with me, I can take you back?”  She wasn’t Scottish.

 I looked at Jamie for information—I’d not heard of the Cloudtrees; they must be recent settlers—but he shook his head, one brow raised.  He didn’t know them, either.

 “Did ye come afoot, lassie?” he asked, and when she nodded, asked, “Was the sun still up when ye left your home?”

 She shook her head.  “No, sir.  ‘Twas well dark, we’d all gone to bed.  Then my mother’s pains came on sudden, and…”  She gulped again, tears welling in her eyes.

 “And the moon?” Jamie asked, as though nothing were amiss.  “Was it up when ye set out?”

 His matter-of-fact tone eased her a little, and she took an audible breath, swallowed, and nodded.

 “Well up, sir.   Two hands-breadths above the edge of the earth.”

 “What a very poetic turn of phrase,” I said, smiling at her.  Fanny had come with my old gardening shawl—it was ratty and had holes, but had been made of thick new wool to start with.  I took it from Fanny with a nod of thanks and wrapped it round the girl’s shoulders.

 Jamie had stepped out on the porch, presumably to see where the moon now was.   He stepped back in, and nodded to me.

 “The brave wee lass has been abroad in the night alone for about three hours, Sassenach.  Miss Annie—is there a decent trail that leads to your father’s place?”
 Her soft brow scrunched in concern—she wasn’t sure what “decent” might mean in this context—but she nodded uncertainly.
 “There’s a trail,” she said, looking from Jamie to me in hopes that this might be enough.

 “We’ll ride, then,” he said to me, over her head.   “The moon’s bright enough. “  _And I think we’d best hurry_, his expression added.  I rather thought he was right.





Excerpt "Mackenzies return"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #Happy99thBirthdayClaire !

There was a stone under my right buttock, but I didn’t want to move. The tiny heartbeat under my fingers was soft and stubborn, the fleeting jolts life and the space between, infinity, my connection to the endless night sky and the rising flame.

“Move your arse a bit, Sassenach,” said a voice in my ear. “I need to scratch my nose and ye’re sitting on my hand.” Jamie twitched his fingers under me, and I moved by reflex, turning my head toward him as I shifted and resettled, keeping my hold on Mandy, bonelessly asleep in my arms.
He smiled at me over Jem’s tousled head, flexed his now-free hand, and scratched his nose. It must be well past midnight, but the fire was still high, and the light sparked off the stubble of his beard and glowed as softly in his eyes as in his grandson’s red hair and the shadowed folds of the worn plaid he’d wrapped about them both.

On the other side of the fire, Brianna laughed, in the quiet way people laugh in the middle of the night with sleeping children near.
She laid her head on Roger’s shoulder, her eyes half-closed. She looked completely exhausted, her hair unwashed and tangled, the firelight showing deep hollows in her face…but happy.
“What is it ye find funny, a nighean?” Jamie asked, shifting Jem into a more comfortable position. Jem was fighting as hard as he could to stay awake, but was losing the fight. He gaped enormously and shook his head, blinking like a dazed owl.

“Wha’s funny?” he repeated, but the last word trailed off, leaving him with his mouth half-open and a glassy stare.
His mother giggled, a lovely girlish sound, and I felt Jamie’s smile.
“I just asked Daddy if he remembered a Gathering we came to, years ago. The clans were all called at a big bonfire and I handed Daddy a burning branch and told him to go down to the fire and say the MacKenzies were there.”
“Oh.” Jem blinked once, then twice, looked at the fire blazing in front of us, and a slight frown formed between his small red brows. “Where are we now?”
“Home,” Roger said firmly, and his eyes met mine, then passed to Jamie. “For good.”

Jamie let out the same breath I’d been holding since the afternoon, when the MacKenzies had appeared suddenly in the clearing below, and we had flown down the hill to meet them. There had been one moment of joyous, wordless explosion as we all flung ourselves at each other, and then the explosion had widened, as Amy Higgins came out of her house, summoned by the noise, to be followed by Bobby, then Aidan—who had whooped at sight of Jem and tackled him, knocking him flat—Orrie and little Rob.
Jo Beardsley had been in the woods nearby, heard the racket and come to see…and within what seemed like moments, the clearing was alive with people. Six households were within reach of the news before sundown; the rest would undoubtedly hear of it tomorrow.

The instant outpouring of Highland hospitality had been wonderful; women and girls had run back to their cabins and fetched whatever they had baking or boiling for supper, the men had gathered wood and—at Jamie’s behest—lugged it up to the crest where the outline of the New House stood, and we had welcomed home our family in style, surrounded by friends.

Hundreds of questions had been asked of the travelers: where had they come from? How was the journey? What had they seen? No one had asked if they were happy to be back; that was taken for granted by everyone.

Neither Jamie nor I had asked any questions. Time enough for that—and now that we were alone, Roger had just answered the only one that truly mattered.




Excerpt 'Mushrooms'

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We walked on slowly, pausing now and then as I spotted something edible, medicinal, or fascinating. It being autumn, this required a stop every few feet.

“Oo!” I said, heading for a slash of deep, bloody red at the foot of a tree. “Look at that!”

“It looks like a slice of fresh deer’s liver,” Jamie said, peering over my shoulder. “But it doesna smell like blood, so I’m guessing it’s one of the things ye call shelf-funguses?”

“Very astute of you. Fistulina hepatica,” I said, whipping out my knife. “Here, hold this, would you?”

He accepted my basket with no more than a slight roll of the eyes and stood patiently while I cut the fleshy chunks—for there was a whole nest of them hidden under the drifted leaves, like a set of crimson lily pads—free of the tree. I left the smaller ones to grow, but still had at least two pounds of the meaty mushroom. I packed them in layers of damp leaves, but broke off a small piece and offered it to Jamie.

“One side makes you taller, and one side makes you small,” I said, smiling.

“What?”

“Alice in Wonderland—the Caterpillar. I’ll tell you later. It’s said to taste rather like raw beef,” I said.

Muttering, “Caterpillar” under his breath, he accepted the bit, turned it from side to side, inspecting it critically to be sure it harbored no insidious legs, then popped it in his mouth and chewed, eyes narrowed in concentration. He swallowed, and I relaxed a little.

“Maybe like verra old beef, that’s been hung a long time,” he allowed. “But aye, a man could stomach it.”

“That’s actually a very good commendation for a raw mushroom,” I said, pleased. “If I had a few anchovies to hand, I’d make you a nice tartare sauce to go with it.”

“Anchovies,” he said thoughtfully. “I havena had an anchovy in years.” He licked his lower lip in memory. “I might find some, when I go to Wilmington.”

I looked at him in surprise.

“Are you planning to go before the spring?” True, the leaves were still nearly as thick upon the trees as upon the ground, but in the mountains, the weather could turn in the space of an hour. There could be snow in the passes any time between now and next March.

“Aye, I thought I’d risk one more trip before winter sets in,” he said casually. “D’ye want to come, Sassenach? I thought ye’d maybe be busy wi’ the preserving.”

“Hmpf.” While it was perfectly true that I ought to be spending every waking hour in finding, catching, smoking, salting or preserving food…it was equally true that I ought to be replenishing our stocks of needles, pins, sugar—that was a good point, I’d need more sugar to be making the fruit preserves—and thread, to say nothing of other bits of household iron-mongery and the medicines I couldn’t find or make, like Jesuit’s bark and ether.

And, if you came right down to it, wild horses couldn’t keep me from going with him. Jamie knew it, too; I could see the side of his mouth curling.







Excerpt "Distraction"

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 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.”







Except "Cramped quarters"

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 The small wooden structure to which the lieutenant escorted them might originally have been a chicken coop, Brianna thought, ducking beneath the flimsy lintel.   Someone had been living in it, though; there were two rough pallets with blankets on the floor, a stool that held a chipped and stained pottery ewer and basin, and an enameled tin chamberpot in much better condition.

 “I do apologize, ma’am,” the lieutenant said, for the dozenth time.  “But half our tents have blown away and the men are holding down the rest.”   He held his lantern up, peering dubiously at the dark splotches seeping through the boards of one wall.  “It seems not to be leaking too badly.  Yet.”

 “It’s perfectly fine,” Brianna assured him, hunching out of the way so her two large escorts could squeeze in behind her.  With four people inside the shed, there was literally no room to turn around, let alone lie down, and she clutched her sketchbox under her cloak, not wanting it to be trampled.

 “We are obliged to you, Lieutenant.”  William was bent nearly double under the low ceiling, but managed a nod in Hanson’s direction.  “Food?”

 “Directly, sir,” the lieutenant assured him.  “I’m sorry there’s no fire, but at least you’ll be out of the rain.   Good night, Mrs. MacKenzie—and thank you again.”

 He squirmed past the bulk of John Cinnamon, and disappeared into the blustery night, clutching his hat to his head.

 “Take that one,” William said to Brianna, jerking his chin at the bed-sack furthest from the leaking wall.   “Cinnamon and I will take the other in shifts.”

 She was too tired to argue with him.  She laid down her sketchbox, shook the blanket, and when no bedbugs, lice or spiders fell out, sat down, feeling like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.

 She closed her eyes, hearing William and John Cinnamon negotiate their movements, but letting the low voices wash over her like the wind and rain outside.  Images crowded the backs of her eyes, the trampled grass of the riverside trail, the suspicious faces of the British sentries, the ever-changing light on the dead man’s face, her brother jerking his chin in exactly the way her—their—father did…dark streaks of water and white streaks of chicken shit on silvered boards in the lantern-light…light…it seemed a thousand years since she’d watched the morning sun glow pink through Angelina Brumby’s small sweet ear…

 She opened her eyes on darkness, feeling a hand on her shoulder.

 “Don’t fall asleep before you eat something,” William said, sounding amused.  “I promised to see you fed, and I shouldn’t like to break my word.”

 “Food?”  She shook her head, blinking.  A sudden glow rose behind William, and she saw the big Indian set down a clay fire-pot next to the stubby candle he’d just lit.  He tilted the candle over the bottom of the upturned chamberpot, then stuck it into the melted wax, holding it until the wax hardened.

 “Sorry, I should have asked if you wanted to piss, first,” Cinnamon said, looking at her apologetically.   “Only there’s no place else to put the candle.”




Excerpt "Healing Roger"

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 “It all begins in _medias res_, and if you’re lucky, it ends that way as well.”  Roger swallowed, and I felt his larynx bob under my fingers.  The skin of his throat was cool, and smooth where I held it, though I could feel the tiny prickle of beard stubble brush my knuckle, just under his jaw.  It was late in the day; I could hear Brianna and Fanny banging things in the kitchen as supper got underway.

 “That’s what Dr. McEwan said?” I asked curiously.  “What did he mean by it, I wonder?”

 Roger’s eyes were closed—people normally closed their eyes when I examined them, as though needing to preserve what privacy they could—but at this, he opened them, an arresting deep green lit by the setting sun that came in through my glassless window.

 “I asked him.  He said that nothing ever truly starts or stops, so far as he could see.  That people think a child’s life begins at birth, but plainly that’s not so—ye can see them move in the womb, and a child that comes too soon will often live for a short time, and ye see that it’s alive in all its senses, even though it can’t sustain life.”

 Now I’d closed my own eyes, not because I found Roger’s gaze unsettling, but in order to concentrate on the vibrations of his words.  I moved my grip on his throat a little lower.

 “Well, he’s quite right about that,” I said, envisioning the inner anatomy of the throat as I talked.  “Babies are born already running, as it were.  All their processes—except breathing—are working long before birth.  But that’s still a rather cryptic remark.”

 “Yes, it was.”  He swallowed again and I felt his breath, warm on my bare forearm.  “I prodded him a bit, because he’d obviously meant it by way of explanation—or at least the best he could do by way of explanation.  I don’t suppose you could describe what it is you actually do when you heal someone, could you?”

 I smiled at that, without opening my eyes.

 “Oh, I might have a go at it.  But there’s an implied error there; _I_ don’t actually heal people.  They heal by themselves.  I just…support them.”

 A sound that wasn’t quite a laugh made his larynx execute a complicated double bob.   I _thought_ I could feel a slight concavity under my thumb, where the cartilage had been partially crushed by the rope…  I put my other hand round my own throat, for comparison.

 “That’s actually what he said—Hector McEwan, I mean.  But he _did_ heal people; I saw him do it.”

 My hands released both our throats, and he opened his eyes again.

“When?” I asked, a small flame of curiosity lit suddenly by his words.  “Who did he heal?  And more importantly—what did he do?”

 Roger smiled a little, as though remembering something fondly, but not without pain.

 “My…er…I’m not sure what to call him.  I mean, in fact, he was—_is_—my five-times great-grandfather.  But—he was close to my own age when we, er, met, and he—“  He looked at me directly, and lifted a palm, helpless, but amused.  “Well, sometimes he was—not exactly a friend—maybe more like a cousin.   And then again…” he put his fingers to the scar on his throat.  “It was he who got me hanged.”

 “What?”  I stared at him.  “James MacQuiston?”  I thought that was the name of the man who had denounced Roger to Governor Tryon as one of the conspirators of the Regulation, and thus gotten him hanged.

 “Something of a misunderstanding,” Roger said, actually smiling.  “And something of an alias, too.   His real name is William Buccleigh MacKenzie.”

 “William….”  That name rang a bell, certainly, but who--?  Then the penny dropped.   “No!  You don’t mean—“

 “Oh, but I do,” he said wryly.  “Geillis Duncan’s son by Dougal MacKenzie.”

 “Jesus H. Roosevelt _Christ_.”






Excerpt  "Taking leave"


#DailyLines   #BookNine  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #TakingLeave   #IdbewritingmoreifIwasntinSanDiegodoingComicCon  #Orwatchinggrandsonbeingborn   #orotherfunstuff  #ButIamsoImnot  #Ididpromiseyousomethingentertainingtonightthough

 She sat, unobtrusive in the shadows. Head bent, the soft shush of her charcoal lost in the clearing of throats, the rustle of clothing.   But she watched them, in ones and twos and threes, as they ducked under the open tent flap and came to the general’s side.  There each man paused to look on his face, calm in the candlelight, and she caught what she could of the drifting currents that crossed their own faces: shadows of grief and sorrow, eyes sometimes dark with fear, or blank with shock and tiredness.

 Often, they wept.

 William and John Cinnamon flanked her, standing just behind on either side, silent and respectful.  General [ ]’s orderly had offered them stools, but they had courteously refused, and she found their buttressing presences oddly comforting.

 The soldiers came by companies, the uniforms (in some cases, only militia badges) changing.  John Cinnamon shifted his weight now and then, and occasionally took a deep breath or cleared his throat.  William didn’t.

 What was he doing? she wondered.   Counting the soldiers? Assessing the condition of the American troops?  They were shabby; dirty and unkempt, and in spite of their respectful demeanor, few of the companies seemed to have much notion of order.  

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder just what William’s motive in coming had been.  She’d been so happy at meeting him that she’d accepted his statement that he wouldn’t let his sister go unaccompanied into a military camp at face value. Was it true, though?  From the little Lord John had said, she knew that William had resigned his army commission—but that didn’t mean he’d changed sides.  Or that he had no interest in the state of the American siege, or that he didn’t intend to pass on any information he gained during this visit.  Clearly he still knew people in the British army.

The skin on her shoulders prickled at the thought, and she wanted to turn round and look up at him.  A moment’s hesitation and she did just that.  His face was grave, but he was looking at her.

“All right?” he asked in a whisper.

“Yes,” she said, comforted by his voice.  “I just wondered whether you’d fallen asleep standing up.”

“Not yet.”

She smiled, and opened her mouth to say something, apologize for keeping him and his friend out all night.  He stopped her with a small twitch of fingers.

“It’s all right,” he said softly.  “You do what you came to do.  We’ll stay with you, and take you home in the morning.  I meant it; I won’t leave you alone.”





Excerpt "Sourwood honey"


I broke off a small chunk of bread, carefully spread a dab of the pale honey onto it, and handed it to him.

“Taste that. Not like that!” I said, seeing him about to engulf the bite. He froze, the bread half-way to his mouth.

“How am I meant to taste it, if I’m not to put it in my mouth?” He asked warily. “Have ye thought of some very novel method of ingestion?” He lifted the morsel to his nose and sniffed it cautiously.

“Slowly. You’re meant to savor it,” I added reprovingly. “It’s special.”

“Oh.” He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Well, it’s got a fine, light nose.” He raised his eyebrows, eyes still closed. “And a nice bouquet, to be sure…lily ‘o the valley, burnt sugar, something a wee bit bitter, maybe…” He frowned concentrating, then opened his eyes and looked at me. “Bee shit?”

I made a grab for the bread, but he snatched it away, stuffed it in his mouth, closed his eyes again and assumed an expression of rapture as he chewed.

“See if I ever give you any more sourwood honey!” I said.

He swallowed, blinked, and licked his lips thoughtfully.

“Sourwood. Is that no what ye gave Bobby Higgins last week to make him shit?”

“That’s the leaves.” I waved at a tall jar on the middle shelf. “Sarah Ferguson says that sourwood honey is monstrously good and monstrously rare, and that the folk in Salem and Cross Creek will give you a small ham for a jar of it.”

“Will they, so?” He eyed the honey-pot with more respect. “And it’s from your own wee stingards, is it?”

“Yes, but the sourwood trees only bloom for about six weeks, and I’ve only the one hive. That’s why it’s so—“

A thunder of feet coming onto the porch and in the front door drowned me out, and the air was filled with excited boys’ voices shouting, “Grand-da!” “Grand-pere!” “ Maighister!”
Jamie stuck his head out into the corridor.

“What?” he said, and the running feet stumbled to a ragged halt, among exclamations and pantings, in the midst of which I picked out one word: ‘Redcoats!’





Excerpt "Battle of Monmouth"

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Jamie rubbed a blood-wet sleeve across his face, the wool rasping his skin, sweat buring in his eyes.  It was a church they’d chased the British into—or a churchyard. Men were dodging through the tombstones, vaulting them in hot pursuit. 

The British had turned at bay, though, an officer shouting them into a ragged line, and the drill began, the muskets grounded, ramrods drawn . . . 

“Fire!” Jamie bellowed, with all the power left in his cracked voice. “Fire on them! Now!” 

Only a few men had loaded weapons, but sometimes it took only one. A shot rang out from behind him, and the British officer who was shouting stopped shouting and staggered. He clutched himself, curling up and falling to his knees, and someone shot him again. He jerked backward, then fell over sideways. 

There was a roar from the British line, which dissolved at once into a rush, some men pausing long enough to fix their bayonets, others wielding their guns like clubs. The Americans met them, mindless and shrieking, with guns and fists. One militiaman reached the fallen officer, seized him by the legs, and began to drag him away toward the church, perhaps with the notion to take him prisoner, perhaps to get him help. . . . 

A British soldier threw himself upon the American, who stumbled back-ward and fell, loosing his hold on the officer. Jamie was running, shouting, trying to gather the men, but it was no use; they’d lost their wits altogether in the madness of fighting, and whatever their original intent in seizing the British officer, they’d lost that, too. 

Leaderless, so had the British soldiers, some of whom were now engaged in a grotesque tug-of-war with two Americans, each grasping the limbs of the dead—for surely he must be now, if he hadn’t been killed outright—British officer. 

Appalled, Jamie ran in among them, shouting, but his voice failed alto-gether under strain and breathlessness, and he realized he was making no more than faint cawing noises. He reached the fight, grasped one soldier by the shoulder, meaning to pull him back, but the man rounded on him and punched him in the face. 

It was a glancing blow off the side of his jaw but made him lose his grip, and he was knocked off-balance by someone shoving past him to grab some part of the hapless officer’s body. 

Drums. A drum. Someone in the distance was beating something urgent, a summons. 

“Retreat!” someone shouted in a hoarse voice. “Retreat!” 

Something happened; a momentary pause—and suddenly it was all differ¬ent and the Americans were coming past him, hasty but no longer frantic, a few of them carrying the dead British officer. Yes, definitely dead; the man’s head lolled like a rag doll’s. 

_Thank God they’re not dragging him through the dirt_ was all he had time to think. Lieutenant Bixby was at his shoulder, blood pouring down his face from an open flap of scalp. 

“There you are, sir!” he said, relieved. “Thought you was taken, we did.” He took Jamie respectfully by the Jarm, tugging him along. “Come away, sir, will you? I don’t trust those wicked buggers not to come back.” 

Jamie glanced in the direction Bixby was pointing. Sure enough, the Brit¬
ish were retiring, under the direction of a couple of officers who had come forward out of a mass of redcoats forming up in the middle distance. They showed no disposition to come closer, but Bixby was right: there were still random shots being fired, from both sides. He nodded, fumbling in his pocket for his extra kerchief to give the man to stanch his wound. 

The thought of wounds made him think of Claire, and he recalled sud-denly what Denzell Hunter had said: “_Tennent Church, the hospital’s set up there_.” Was this Tennent Church? 

He was already following Bixby toward the road but glanced back. Yes, the men who had the dead British officer were taking him into the church, and there were wounded men sitting near the door, more of them near a small white—God, that was Claire’s tent, was she—

He saw her at once, as though his thought had conjured her, right there in the open. She was standing up, staring openmouthed, and no wonder—there was a Continental regular on a stool beside her, holding a bloodstained cloth, and more such cloths in a basin at her feet. But why was she out here? She—

And then he saw her jerk upright, clap a hand to her side, and fall.






Excerpt "William and bree"

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Lieutenant Hanson cast a quick look over his shoulder and lowered his voice. “The general was shot up two days ago, runnin’ his cavalry in betwixt two batteries, but--”

“He led a cavalry charge…into cannon?” Evidently Lieutenant Hanson hadn’t lowered his voice quite enough, for the question came from William, riding close behind. He sounded incredulous and slightly amused, and Bree turned round and glared at him.
He ignored the glare, but urged his horse up toward Hanson’s mule. The lieutenant was carrying his flag of truce, and at this moved it instinctively, pointing it at William in the manner of a jousting lance.

“I meant no insult to the general,” William said mildly, raising one hand in negligent defense. “It sounds a most dashing and courageous maneuver.”

“It was,” Hanson replied shortly. He raised his flag a little and turned his back on William, leaving brother and sister riding side by side, John Cinnamon bringing up the rear. Bree gave William a narrow-eyed look that strongly suggested he should keep his mouth shut. He eyed her for a moment, then straightened up and assumed an expression of angelic rectitude, lips primly compressed.

She wanted to laugh almost as much as she wanted to poke him with something sharp, but lacking her own flag of truce, settled for an audible snort.

“À vos souhaits,” Mr. Cinnamon said politely behind her. William snorted.

“Merci," she said, "and Bless you.". Nothing more was said until they arrived a few minutes later at the edge of the city. A small cluster of English redcoats was guarding the end of the street, sheltering from artillery fire behind a barricade of wagons and mattresses turned on their sides. A camp kettle was boiling over a tiny fire, and the scent of coffee and toasted bread made her mouth water.

She must have been gazing hungrily at a few men eating by the fire, for William nudged his horse nearer and murmured, “I’ll see you’re fed as soon as we reach camp.”

She glanced at him and nodded thanks. There was nothing amused or off-hand in his manner now. He sat relaxed in his saddle, reins loose in his hand as Lieutenant Hanson talked to the redcoat in command, but his eyes never left the British soldiers.






Excerpt "Savannah

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE  #BookNine #Noitsnothelastbook   #NOitisntfinished   #Later   #Illtellyouwhenwegetclose  #Savannah   #PortraitPainting   #NoNewIsGoodNews

 “R oo wrkg n m mth?”  Mrs. Brumby said, moving her lips as little as possible, just in case.

 “No, you can talk,” Brianna assured her, suppressing a smile.  “Don’t move your hands, though.”

 “Oh, of course!”  The hand that had risen unconsciously to fiddle with her densely sculpted curls dropped like a stone into her lap, but then she giggled.  “Must I have Heike feed me my elevenses?  I hear her coming.”

 Heike weighed about fourteen stone and could be heard coming for some considerable time before she appeared, the wooden heels of her shoes striking the bare floorboards of the hall with a measured tread like the thump of a bass drum.

 “I have _got_ to do that floor-cloth,” Bree said, not realizing that she’d spoken aloud until Angelina laughed.

 “Oh, do,” she said.  “I meant to tell you, Mr. Brumby says he prefers the pineapples, and could you possibly have it ready by Wednesday-week?   He wants to have a great dinner for Colonel Campbell and his staff.  In gratitude, you know,  for his gallant defense of the city.”   She hesitated, her little pink tongue darting out to touch her lips.  “Do you think…er…I don’t wish to—to be—that is—“

 Brianna made a hasty dab, a streak of pale pink catching the shine of light on the roundness of Angelina’s delicate forearm.

 “It’s all right,” she said, barely attending.  “Don’t move your fingers.”

 “No, no!” Angelina said, twitching her fingers guiltily, then trying to remember how they’d been.

 “That’s fine, don’t move!”

 Angelina froze, and Bree managed the suggestion of shadow between the fingers while Heike clumped in.   To her surprise, though, there was no sound of rattling tea-things, nor any hint of the cake she’d smelled baking this morning as she dressed.

 “What is it, Heike?”   Mrs. Brumby was sitting rigidly erect, and while she’d been given permission to talk, kept her eyes fixed on the vase of flowers Brianna had given her as a focus spot.   “Where is our morning tea?”

 “_Ist ein Mann_,” Heike informed her mistress portentously, dropping her voice as though to avoid being overheard.

 “Someone at the door, you mean?”  Angelina risked a curious glance at the studio door before jerking her eyes back into line.  “What sort of man?”

 Heike pursed her lips and nodded at Brianna.

 “_Ein Soldat.  Er will sie sehen_.”

 “A soldier?” Angelina dropped her pose and looked at Brianna in astonishment.  “And he wants to see Mrs. MacKenzie?  You’re sure of that, Heike?   You don’t think he might want Mr. Brumby?”

 Heike was fond of her young mistress and refrained from rolling her eyes, instead merely nodding again at Bree.

 “Her,” she said in English.   “_Er sagte, ‘die_ Lay-dee Pain-ter.’”  She folded her hands under her apron and waited with patience for further instructions.

 “Oh.”  Angelina was clearly at a loss—and just as clearly had lost all sense of her pose.

 “Shall I go and talk to him?” Bree inquired.  She swished her brush in the turps and wrapped it in a bit of damp rag.  

 “Oh, no—bring him here, will you, Heike?”   Angelina plainly wanted to know what this visitation was about.   And, Bree thought with an internal smile, seeing Angelina poke hastily at her hair, be seen in the thrilling position of being painted.

 The soldier in question proved to be a very young man in the uniform of the Continental Army.   Angelina gasped at sight of him and dropped the glove she was holding in her left hand.

 “Who are you, sir?” she demanded, sitting up as straight as she possibly could.  “And how come you here, may I ask?”

 “Your servant, ma’am,” the young man replied, “and yours, ma’am,” turning to Brianna.   He withdrew a sealed note from the bosom of his coat and bowed to her.  “If I may take the liberty of inquiring—are you Mrs. Roger MacKenzie?”

 She felt as though she’d been dropped abruptly down a glacial abyss, freezing cold and ice-blind.  Confused memories of  yellow telegrams seen in war movies, the looming threat of the siege, and _where was he_?






Excerpt "Bree and William"

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 The pungent tang of smells he thought of vaguely as “paints” reached William at the front door.

 “I’m _so_ sorry!” Mrs. Brumby said, seeing his nose twitch.  “We’ve got quite used to the smell, I’m afraid, but it really does reek terribly, doesn’t it?  I’m sure I shall never get the stink of turpentine out of the curtains!”

 “Oh, no, ma’am,” he assured her.  “I like the scent extremely.  It’s…exciting.”  He smiled at her, but it was true.   He had very early memories of a portrait-painter coming to Helwater to do portraits of his grandparents and Mama Isobel, the fuss of canvas and wood and cloths and the mysterious fumes that floated out of the morning room.   The whole thing had given him a lovely sense of magic, strange things going on nearby.

 Mrs. Brumby dimpled at him.  She was young, perhaps close to his own age, and, he thought, somewhat impressed at being in possession of a portrait-painter of her own.

 “Well, do come in, sir,” she said, stepping back and gesturing down a wide hall with a floor of bare, though polished, wood.

 “Mrs. MacKenzie is painting a wonderful floor-cloth for us!”  Mrs. Brumby said hastily, seeing his glance.  “She took up the old one, to…er…get the measurements, I think she said.”

 “How nice,” William said, not really attending.  “MacKenzie, you said?”  The name was unsettlingly familiar, but for the moment, he couldn’t think why it should be.

 “Yes, her husband is a Presbyterian minister, isn’t that odd?  You wouldn’t think a minister would care to have his wife…well, Mr. MacKenzie’s a lovely man, regardless.”

 Presbyterian ministers rang no mental bells for William, but he smiled and followed her to a closed door halfway down the hall, from which he heard the sound of whistling.

 Mrs. Brumby blinked, disconcerted for a moment, but then squared her shoulders and opened the door, shooing him inside.

 A strikingly tall red-haired woman turned from the window, smiling.  The smile froze on her face, reflecting the one he could feel paralyzing his own.

 “Mrs. MacKenzie, I do hope I’m not interrupting you,” Mrs. Brumby said, craning her neck to peek at a canvas on an easel.  “This is Mr. William Ransom.   Lord John Grey suggested that he might come and…”

 Whatever else Mrs. Brumby said was lost in the sudden roaring in his ears.  Then the woman—Mrs. MacKenzie, of the deep blue eyes, Mrs. MacKenzie, the daughter of bloody Jamie Fraser, Mrs. MacKenzie, his…sister—was in front of him, extending her hand as though she meant to shake his.

 She did bloody shake it, as heartily as a man.  He got his wits back enough to hold on to her hand, turn it, and bow low over it.  Her hand was rough, the fingers streaked with green and blue and white.  Determined to assert himself, he kissed it, and got a whiff of turpentine that whooshed through his head like a winter wind.

 “Your servant, ma’am,” he said, straightening and letting go her hand.

 “Yours.   Sir,” she added, not curtsying.  She looked amused, damn her.





Excerpt "Migraine"

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“Lie down,” I said firmly, and pointed to my lap.
“Nay, I’ll be f—"
“I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said. “I said, lie down.”
“I’ve work to—“
“You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said. “Lie. Down.”
He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue. He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly. He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.

I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait. I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair. It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.
“Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me. He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ‘til his head rested heavy in my lap. I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw. Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp. He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.

“Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs. “Here?”

“Aye…but…” He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye. “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”

“Mmm.” I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull. I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin. “Well, then.”
I took my hands away and he let his breath out.

“It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.

“It does hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.
“I know.” I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air. “I’ll make it better.”

He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples. I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath. I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished. For now, though…
“Do you remember,” I said, my voice low and quiet. “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning? And how his mother came and combed your hair?”

“Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “She said…she would comb the snakes from my hair.” Another hesitation. “She…did.”

Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it. How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart. Guilt, distress…and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.

There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there. I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little. I put my other hand on his shoulder.

“Shh. Breathe.”
His breath came with a small moan, but he did. I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch. He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.

“Let me do that for you,” I said softly. The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment. With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.

“I…no, I dinna want…” But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin. Over and over, very slowly.

I didn’t say anything for quite some time. He breathed. The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.

“Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window. “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me. Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better. But say it.”

His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh. After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.

“Sassenach?” he said softly.
“Mm?”
“I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”

He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.





Excerpt "Backwoods etiquette" 

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My breath steamed white in the dimness of the smoke-shed. No fire had been lit in here for over a month, and the air smelt of bitter ash and the tang of old blood.

“How much do you think this thing weighs?” Brianna put both hands on the shoulder of the enormous black and white hog lying on the crude table by the back wall and leaned her own weight experimentally against it. The shoulder moved slightly—rigor had long since passed, despite the cold weather—but the hog itself didn’t budge an inch.

“At a guess, it originally weighed somewhat more than your father. Maybe three hundred pounds on the hoof?” Jamie had bled and gralloched the hog when he killed it; that had probably lightened his load by a hundred pounds or so, but it was still a lot of meat. A pleasant thought for the winter’s food, but a daunting prospect at the moment.

I unrolled the pocketed cloth in which I kept my larger surgical tools; this was no job for an ordinary kitchen knife.

“What do you think about the intestines?” I asked. “Usable, do you think?”

She wrinkled her nose, considering. Jamie hadn’t been able to carry much beyond the carcass itself—and in fact had dragged that—but had thoughtfully salvaged twenty or thirty pounds of intestine. He’d roughly stripped the contents, but two days in a canvas pack hadn’t improved the condition of the uncleaned entrails, not savory to start with. I’d looked at them dubiously, but put them to soak overnight in a tub of salt water, on the off chance that the tissue hadn’t broken down too far to prevent their use as sausage casing.

“I don’t know, Mama,” Bree said reluctantly. “I think they’re pretty far gone. But we might save some of it.”

“If we can’t, we can’t.” I pulled out the largest of my amputation saws and checked the teeth. “We can make square sausage, after all.” Cased sausage was much easier to preserve; once properly smoked, they’d last indefinitely. Sausage patties were fine, but took more careful handling, and had to be packed into wooden casks or boxes in layers of lard for keeping…we hadn’t any casks, but--

“Lard!” I exclaimed, looking up. “Bloody hell--I’d forgotten all about that. We don’t have a kettle, bar the kitchen cauldron, and we can’t use that.” Rendering lard took several days, and the kitchen cauldron supplied at least half our cooked food, to say nothing of hot water.

“Can we borrow one?” Bree glanced toward the door, where a flicker of movement showed. “Jem, is that you?”

“No, it’s me, auntie.” Germain stuck his head in, sniffing cautiously. “Mandy wanted to visit Rachel’s _petit bonbon_, and _Grand-pere _ said she could go if Jem or me would take her. We threw bones and he lost.”

“Oh. Fine, then. Will you go up to the kitchen and fetch the bag of salt from Grannie’s surgery?”

“There isn’t any,” I said, grasping the pig by one ear and setting the saw in the crease of the neck. “There wasn’t much, and we used all but a handful soaking the intestines. We’ll need to borrow that, too.”

I dragged the saw through the first cut, and was pleased to find that while the fascia between skin and muscle had begun to give way—the skin slipped a little with rough handling—the underlying flesh was still firm.

“I tell you what, Bree,” I said, bearing down on the saw as I felt the teeth bite between the neck bones, “it’s going to take a bit of time before I’ve got this skinned and jointed. Why don’t you call round and see which lady might lend us her rendering kettle for a couple of days, and a half-pound of salt to be going on with?”

“Right,” Bree said, seizing the opportunity with obvious relief. “What should I offer her? One of the hams?”

“Oh, no, auntie,” said Germain, quite shocked. “That’s much too much for the lend of a kettle! And ye shouldna offer anyway,” he added, small fair brows drawing together in a frown. “Ye dinna bargain a favor. She’ll ken ye’ll give her what’s right.”

She gave him a look, half questioning, half amused, then glanced at me. I nodded.

“I see I’ve been gone too long,” she said lightly, and giving Germain a pat on the head, vanished on her errand







Excerpt "Flashback"

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 “Here.”  Buck had reached into his pocket and come out with a grimy wad of paper, which he shoved unceremoniously into Roger’s hand.

 He knew what it was—and wondered for an instant how he knew.  Was it only the circumstances, or could he actually…feel something?

 It was a sapphire, a raw one.  A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail.  He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.

 “Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not,” Buck said, nodding at it.

 “I  think not.  I hope not.  I wish I could say I can’t take it.”  Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him.  “Thank you, _a charaidh_.  Where did ye find it?”

 “Ach…”  Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand.  “Just saw it and picked it up, ken?”

 “Holy Lord,” Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid.   And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones…he’d declined, thank God.  But—

 “You didn’t,” he said to Buck.  “Tell me ye didn’t.”

 “Ye keep saying that,” Buck said, frowning at him.  “I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies.  A poor example for the bairns, aye?”

 He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success.   Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.

 “Me, a poor example?  And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!”

 “And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?”

 “I—“  His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard.  The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass.  “No.  I’m not.  But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them.  To risk your bloody neck for us!”  _That’s my job_, he wanted to say, but didn’t.

 “May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.”  Buck gave him a direct stare.  “Ye need it, aye?  Take it, then.”  Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth.  “With my blessing.”

 On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist.  She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.

 “Look, Daddy!” she called.  “Hula hoop!”

 Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern.   Roger shook his head slightly—_don’t say anything_—and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.

 “What’s a hula hoop, then?” Buck asked quietly, behind him.

 “Just a toy.”  His own heart had jumped into his throat when she said it; he swallowed now, just like Jem, and felt it settle.  “It’s nay bother; she’s wee, and a stranger.  No one would trouble about what she calls things.”

 “Not _that_ thing, no.”  Buck watched Mandy for a moment; she’d got the thing whirling round her neck, but only for an instant before it dropped down her body to the ground.   She hopped out of the hoop and skipped over to see what the boys were doing.   “There’s maybe other things she might say, though.  Eh?”

 “Aye.   But she’s wee,” Roger repeated firmly.  “No one pays much heed to what a maid of her age might say.  Bairns make things up, and they chatter all the time.”

 “Aye, I’d noticed that.”  Buck’s voice held a wry amusement.  Roger saw that Buck’s eyes were still fixed on Mandy, with an intensity Roger recognized.  It was the look of someone trying to hold on to a moment, a place, a person they expected to lose.

 Roger touched Buck’s arm, lightly.

 “Will ye not come with us, then?” he asked.  “We can find another stone.  We can wait.”

 Buck’s breath steamed briefly and he turned away.

 “No,” he said firmly.  “I wouldna make it.”

 “Ye don’t know that!”  Roger grabbed his arm this time, making him stop, making him meet his eyes.  They were the same deep green as his own—the same as the woman’s.   Buck’s mother, his own ancestress.  How many of the generations between Buck and himself had those eyes? He wondered.  Who were they?

 “Do I want to die to find out?” Buck snapped, and pulled loose.




Excerpt "Denys Randall"

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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 "Amaranthus"

“The boy needs help,” Hal observed.

“True,” John said, and sighed. “But he’s a man, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Actually, I had, but I wasn’t sure you had—you being his father, I mean. One tends not to see that about one’s sons.”

“Or one’s daughters, I suppose,” John said, not taking any pains to remove the edges of the remark. He wasn’t in a mood to consider Hal’s feelings.

Hal made a grimace that ended as a pained half-smile. “Did I tell you that Hunter writes to me, once or twice a month?”

“No.” John was mildly startled by this. “He’s a Continental army captain, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is—though against his will. They don’t believe in rank. Friends, I mean.”

This was said very casually, and John gave his brother a look, which Hal avoided by picking up a sheaf of orders and flicking through it.

“And his purpose in writing to you is…?” He couldn’t think Denzell Hunter had any hopes of appealing to Hal’s better nature.

“To inform me that Dottie is well.” Hal laid down the papers and gave John back the look. “Nothing more. That’s all he says—‘Dorothea is in good health, though somewhat tired.’ Or ‘Your daughter is well, Yours in Christ, Denzell Hunter.”

There was a silence, during which the shouts of a drill sergeant echoed like the distant calls of some large bird of hysterical temperament.

“Why do you suppose he does it?” John asked finally. “Religious conviction on his part, persuasion by Dottie—does she ever write, herself, by the way?—or an attempt at reconciliation by the water-dropping-on-stone method?”

“She’s written once.” Hal’s face softened a little at the thought. “Though she didn’t say a great deal more than he has. As for Hunter…I honestly don’t think he has unscrupulous designs upon my fortune, or anything of that kind.”

“I shouldn’t think so,” John said dryly. He hadn’t known many Friends personally, but the whole experience of Dottie’s wedding had convinced him that they tended to mean what they said about avoiding the vanities of the world. As for Denzell Hunter, beyond his own brief observations of the man—all favorable—his bona fides were vouched for by three of the few people in the world whom John trusted: Dottie, Claire, and Jamie Fraser.

Thought of Jamie Fraser necessarily recalled his attention to William.

“You’re right about his needing help,” he said, trusting in his brother’s ability always to know what he was talking about. “How, though? He understands the nature of his dilemma as well as we do—possibly better, as it’s his. And knowing his nature as well as I do, I’m sure that any attempt to convince him that his responsibility lies in taking up the duties of his title would be worse than futile.”

“Well,” Hal said thoughtfully, “any attempt by _us_, yes.”

John raised a brow.

“Who else did you have in mind? Dottie? He might listen to her, but she wouldn’t try to persuade him to go back to England. Under her pernicious influence—and Denzell’s—he’d probably end up as King of America.”

“Hmph. No, though you’re on the right track,” Hal said. “I was rather thinking of my daughter-in-law.”

“Amaranthus?” John was surprised, but couldn’t help smiling at thought of that very frank young woman. “Well, she’s certainly a Loyalist, and thus presumably disposed toward tradition…”

“She’s also disposed toward William,” Hal said bluntly. “Has he ever spoken to you about her?”






Excerpt "Hunting by night"


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#huntingbynight

That thought was too much. William stood up and dropped his blanket, dozens of small white moths rising startled from the grass and flitting inquisitively round his face. He ignored these, pulled on his boots and strode off.

He didn’t care where he was going. His limbs felt as though he’d been headed up in a barrel all night, cramped and tingling with a fierce need to move. The smoking fires glowed and flickered under the big oak, and the savory smell of the meat made his stomach growl. One of the Indians was asleep beside the fire, rolled in a blanket; he couldn’t tell which.

Turning his back on the fire, he headed toward the fields that lay behind the house. Mount Josiah had boasted only a score of acres in tobacco when he had known it years before; was the land even cultivated now?

Rather to his surprise, it was. The stalks had been harvested, but the ground was littered with shed leaves and fragments; the sap-thick smell of uncured tobacco lay like incense on the night. The scent soothed him, and he made his way slowly across the field, toward the black shape of the tobacco barn. Was it still in use?

It was. Called a barn for courtesy’s sake, it was little more than a large shed, but the back of it was a large, airy space where the stalks were hung for stripping—there were only a few there now, dangling from the rafters, barely visible against the faint starlight that leaked through the wide-set boards. His entrance caused the dried, stacked leaves on the broad curing platform at one side to stir and rustle, as though the shed took notice of him. It was an odd fancy, but not disturbing—he nodded to the dark, half-conscious of welcome.

He bumped into something that shied away with a hollow sound—an empty barrel. Feeling about, he counted more than a score, some filled, some waiting. Some old, a few new ones, judging by the smell of new wood that added its tang to the shed’s perfume.

Someone was working the plantation—and it wasn’t Manoke. The Indian enjoyed smoking tobacco now and then, but William had never seen him take any part in the raising or harvesting of the crop. Neither did he reek of it. It wasn’t possible to touch green tobacco without a black, sticky sort of tar adhering to your hands, and the smell in a ripe tobacco field was enough to make a grown man’s head swim.

When he had lived here with Lord John—the name caused a faint twinge, but he ignored it—his father had hired laborers from the adjoining property upriver, a large place called Bobwhite, who could easily tend Mt. Josiah’s modest crop in addition to Bobwhite’s huge output. Perhaps the same arrangement was still in place?

The thought that the plantation was still working, even in this ghostly fashion, heartened him a little; he’d thought the place quite abandoned when he saw the ruined house. Curious, he felt his way out of the tobacco barn and turned west, trampling through the shattered remnants of tobacco stalk, toward the higher fields that were used for less valuable crops. Yes, these too had been planted and harvested; by the pale light of a rising half-moon, he saw corn, stooked and standing in rows like small, ragged men. He circled the corn and came down along the river fields—they’d tried to grow rice one year, but it hadn’t answered, he didn’t remember why…a long stretch of fallow ground, thick with weeds and drying grass, and then he turned away from the river and found himself walking over crackling dry stems with a strong, familiar smell….what…oh, flax. Of course.

He smiled at the memory of being allowed to help thresh the flax; they’d put the bundles of dried stems in rough cloth bags and laid them on the tiny brick landing, and then he and Papa and Manoke and Jim and Peter---yes, Jim and Peter, that was right, the two black servants--had jumped up and down on them, trod to and fro, and ended by dancing a riotous quadrille atop the filthy, foot-marked bags. Quite a lot of beer had been drunk; he could taste the mingled fumes of yeast and alcohol on the back of his tongue, and a hint of flax-seed oil that always made him think of paintings.

A dark figure loomed suddenly out of the dark before him, and he yelped and threw himself to one side, scrabbling hastily up onto all fours, groping wildly for a stick, a rock, a—

“_Tabernac_, is that you, _Gillaume_? I mean…”

“It’s me,” William said shortly, dropping the handful of gravel and leaves he’d grabbed. He panted for a moment, hands on his knees, before adding, “I thought you were a bear.”

It was said in all seriousness, but Cinnamon made a small snort of amusement.

“If there was a bear within ten miles, it would already have joined us for supper,” he said. “I thought I heard something more sly, though, like a cat, so I came to see.” He cleared his throat then, and seemed to recede a little into the night. “I’m sorry,” he said more formally. “I didn’t mean to…” a vague hand waved, “…to disturb you.”

“You’re not,” William said, still short, but not unfriendly. None of this was Cinnamon’s fault—and he’d liked the man very much, when they’d spent that winter hunting and trapping. Padding slow-footed miles over the snow on the unwieldy basket-woven shoes that kept them from sinking through its crust.

He shivered a little at the memory, though the night wasn’t very cold. Snot streaming and freezing to the hair on his face, the air like knives and needles in his lungs. And the fire at night, the sounds of burning wood, dripping water, dripping blood from the kill, his own blood surging hot and stinging back into fingers and toes, the long white trance of a day in the forest broken by the shock of hot food. And then their talk.

“You’re not,” he repeated, more firmly. “A cat, you say? Big?”

His eyes were well enough suited to the dark by now that he made out Cinnamon’s nod easily. William looked back over his shoulder, casting his mind hastily over his path; had he half-heard anything, smelled anything…? Nothing moved but the willows and alders by the river, leaves rustling in a light breeze. He felt rather than saw Cinnamon move to the side, lifting his chin to sniff the air. They both froze in the same moment.

From the direction of the house. An acrid pong so faint you might not notice, unless a friendly breeze shoved it right up your nose. William nodded to Cinnamon. Cat.

He glanced then at the tree, where Manoke was still lying in the fire’s glow, wrapped in a trade blanket with wide red and yellow stripes. Cinnamon’s hand closed on his forearm and he felt the Indian’s shake of the head. He nodded again and patted Cinnamon’s hip—was he armed? A breath of self-disgust—no. Neither was William, and he shared his friend’s sentiment; what could he have been thinking of, walking in open ground after dark without so much as a case-knife!

He jerked his head toward the house, and Cinnamon nodded




Excerpt "Dream of Battle"

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I was having the delightful sort of dream where you realize that you’re asleep and are enjoying it extremely. I was warm, bonelessly relaxed, and my mind was an exquisite blank. I was just beginning to sink down through this cloudy layer of bliss to the deeper realms of unconsciousness when a violent movement of the mattress under me jerked me into instant alertness.

By reflex, I rolled onto my side and reached for Jamie. I hadn’t reached the stage of conscious thought yet, but my synapses had already drawn their own conclusions. He was still in bed, so we weren’t under attack and the house wasn’t afire. I heard nothing but his rapid breathing; the children were all right and no one had broken in. Ergo…it was his own dream that had wakened him.

This thought penetrated into the conscious part of my mind just as my hand touched his shoulder. He drew back, but not with the violent recoil he usually showed if I touched him too suddenly after a bad dream. He was awake, then; he knew it was me. _Thank God for that_, I thought, and drew a deep breath of my own.

“Jamie?” I said softly. My eyes were dark-adapted already; I could see him, half-curled beside me, tense, facing me.

“Dinna touch me, Sassenach,” he said, just as softly. “Not yet. Let it pass.” He’d gone to bed in a nightshirt; the room was still chilly. But he was naked now. When had he taken it off? And why?

He didn’t move, but his body seemed to flow, the faint glow of the smoored fire shifting on his skin as he relaxed, hair by hair, his breathing slowing.

I relaxed a little, too, in response, though I still watched him warily. It wasn’t a Wentworth dream—he wasn’t sweating; I could almost literally smell fear and blood on him when he woke from those. They came rarely—but were terrible when they did come.

Battlefield? Perhaps; I hoped so. Some of those were worse than others, but he usually came back from a dream of battle fairly quickly, and would let me cradle him in my arms and gentle him back toward sleep. I longed to do it now.

An ember cracked on the hearth behind me, and the tiny spurt of sparks lit his face for an instant, surprising me. He looked…peaceful, his eyes dark-wide and fixed on something he could still see.

“What is it?” I whispered, after a few moments. “What do you see, Jamie?”

He shook his head slowly, eyes still fixed. Very slowly, though, the focus came back into them, and he saw me. He sighed once, deeply, and his shoulders went loose. He reached for me and I all but lunged into his arms, holding him tight.

“It’s all right, Sassenach,” he said into my hair. “I’m not… It’s all right.”

His voice sounded odd, almost puzzled. But he meant it; he was all right. He rubbed my back gently, between the shoulder blades and I gulped a little. He was very warm, despite the chill, and the clinical part of my mind checked him quickly—no shivering, no flinching…his breathing was quite normal and so was his heart-rate, easily perceptible against my breast.

“Do you…_can_ you tell me about it?” I said, after a bit. Sometimes he could, and it seemed to help. More often, he couldn’t, and would just shake until the dream let go its grip on his mind and let him turn away.

“I don’t know,” he said, the note of surprise still in his voice. “I mean—it was Culloden, but…it was different.”

“How?” I asked warily. I knew from what he’d told me that he remembered only bits and pieces of the battle, single vivid images. I’d never encouraged him to try to remember more, but I _had_ noticed that such dreams came more frequently, the closer we came to any looming conflict. “Did you see Murtagh?”

“Aye, I did.” The tone of surprise in his voice deepened, and his hand stilled on my back. “He was with me, by me. But I could see his face; it shone like the sun.”

This description of his late godfather was more than peculiar; Murtagh had been one of the more dour specimens of Scottish manhood ever produced in the Highlands.

“He was…happy?” I ventured doubtfully. I couldn’t imagine anyone who’d set foot on Culloden moor that day had cracked so much as a smile—likely not even the Duke of Cumberland.

“Oh, more than happy, Sassenach—filled wi’ joy.” He let go of me then, and glanced down into my face. “We all were.”
“All of you—who else was there?” My concern for him had mostly subsided now, replaced by curiosity.

“I dinna ken, quite…there was Alex Kincaid, and Ronnie…

“Ronnie MacNab?” I blurted, astonished.

“Aye,” he said, scarcely noticing my interruption. His brows were drawn inward in concentration, and there was still something of an odd radiance about his own face. “My father was there, too, and my grand-sire—“ He laughed aloud at that, surprised afresh. “I canna imagine why _he’d_ be there—but there he was, plain as day, standing by the field, glowering at the goings-on, but lit up like a turnip on Samhain, nonetheless.

I didn’t want to point out to him that everyone he’d mentioned so far was dead. Many of them hadn’t even been on the field that day—Alex Kincaid had died at Prestonpans, and Ronnie MacNab… I glanced involuntarily at the fire, glowing on the new black slate of the hearthstone. But Jamie was still looking into the depths of his dream.

“Ken, when ye fight, mostly it’s just hard work. Ye get tired. Your sword’s so heavy ye think ye canna lift it one more time—but ye do, of course.” He stretched, flexing his left arm and turning it, watching the play of light over the sun-bleached hairs and deep-cut muscle. “It’s hot—or it’s freezing—and either way, ye just want to go be somewhere else. Ye’re scairt or ye’re too busy to be scairt until it’s over, and then ye shake because of what ye’ve just been doing….” He shook his head hard at this, dislodging the thoughts.

“Not this time. “




Excerpt "Those we love"

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Jamie squatted down by Jenny, reached out a finger and gently touched the softly bumpy little beads; it was made of Scotch pearls, like the necklace he’d given Claire. “Where did Mam get it, d’ye know? I never thought to ask, when I was wee.”

“Well, ye wouldn’t, would ye? When ye’re wee, mam and da are just man and da, and everything’s just what it’s always been.” She gathered the beads up into the palm of her hand, shoogling them into a little pile. “I do ken where this came from, though; Da told me, when he gave it to me. D’ye think that doe’s comin’ in heat?” She squinted suddenly at one of the nanny-goats, who had raised her head and let out a long, piercing bleat. Jamie gave the animal an eye.

“Aye, maybe. She’s waggling her tail. But it’s maybe just she smells the buck-deer in yonder grove.” He lifted his chin at the grove of sugar maples, gone half-scarlet already, though none of the leaves had fallen. “It’s early for rut, but if I can smell him, so can she.”

His sister lifted her face to the light breeze and breathed in deep. “Aye? I dinna smell anything, but I’ll take your word. Da always said ye had a nose like a truffle pig.”

He snorted.

“Aye, right. So what did Da say to you, then? About Mam’s rosary.”

“Aye, well. He was jealous, he said. She wouldna ever say who’d sent her the necklace, ken.”

“Oh, aye—do _you_ know?”

She shook her head, looking interested. “You do?”

“I do. A man named Marcus MacRannoch—one of her suitors from Leoch, and a gallant man; he’d bought them for her, hoping to wed her, but she saw Da and was awa’ with him before MacRannoch could speak to her. He said—well, Claire said he said,” he corrected, “that he’d thought of them so often round her bonny neck, he couldna think of them anywhere else, and so sent them to her for a wedding present.”

Jenny rounded her lips in interest.

“Oo, so that’s the way of it. Well, Da kent it was another man, and as I say, he said he was jealous—they hadna been marrit long, and he maybe wasna quite sure she thought she’d made a good bargain, takin’ up wi’ him. So he sold a good field—to Geordie MacCallum, aye?—and gave the money to Murtagh, to go and buy a wee bawbee for Mam. He meant to give it her when the babe was born—Willie, aye?” She lifted the crucifix and kissed it gently, in blessing of their brother.

“God only kens where Murtagh got this—“ she poured the rosary from one hand to the other, with a slithering sound. “But the words on the medal are French.”

“Murtagh?” Jamie glanced at the beads, and furrowed his brow a bit. “But Da must ha’ kent how he felt about her—about Mam.”

Jenny nodded, rubbing a thumb over the crucifix and the beautifully sculpted, tortured body of Christ. The yaffle called, faint and distant, beyond the maple grove.

“He could see I thought the same thing—why would he send Murtagh on such an errand? But he said he hadna meant to, only he’d told Murtagh what was in his mind, and Murtagh asked to go. Da said he didna want to let him, but he couldna very well go off himself and leave Mam about to burst with Willie and not even a solid roof over her head yet—he’d laid the cornerstones and started the chimneys, but nay more. And—“ She lifted one shoulder. “He loved Murtagh, too—more than his ain brother.”

“God, I miss the old bugger,” Jamie said impulsively. Jenny glanced at him and smiled ruefully.

“So do I. I wonder sometimes if he’s with them now—mam and da.”

That notion startled Jamie—he’d never thought of it—and he laughed, shaking his head. “Well, if he is, I suppose he’s happy.”

“I hope that’s the way of it,” Jenny said, growing serious. “I always wished he could ha’ been buried with them—wi’ the family--at Lallybroch.”

Jamie nodded, his throat suddenly tight. Murtagh lay with the fallen of Culloden, burnt and buried in some anonymous pit on that silent moor, his bones mingled with the others. No cairn for those who loved him to come and leave a stone to say so.

Jenny laid a hand on his arm, warm through the cloth of his sleeve.

“Dinna mind it, _a brathair_,” she said softly. “He had a good death, and you with him at the end.”

“How would you know it was a good death?” Emotion made him speak more roughly than he meant, but she only blinked once, and then her face settled again.

“Ye told me, idiot,” she said dryly. “Several times. D’ye not recall that?”

He stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending.

“I told ye? How? I dinna ken what happened.”

Now it was her turn to be surprised.

“Ye’ve forgotten? “ She frowned at him. “Aye, well…it’s true ye were off your heid wi’ fever for a good ten days when they brought ye home. Ian and I took it in turn to sit with ye—as much to stop the doctor takin’ your leg off as anything else. Ye can thank Ian ye’ve still got that one,” she added, nodding sharply at his left leg. “He sent the doctor away; said he kent well ye’d rather be dead.” Her eyes filled abruptly with tears, and she turned away.

He caught her by the shoulder and felt her bones, fine and light as a kestrel’s under the cloth of her shawl.

“Jenny,” he said softly. “Ian didna want to be dead. Believe me. I did, aye…but not him.”

“No, he did at first,” she said, and swallowed . “But ye wouldna let him, he said—and he wouldna let you, either.” She wiped her face with the back of her hand, roughly. He took hold of it, and kissed it, her fingers cold in his hand.

“Ye dinna think ye had anything to do with it?” he asked, rising to his feet and smiling down at her. “For either of us?”

“Hmph,” she said, but she looked modestly pleased.

The goats had moved away a little, brown backs smooth amid the tussocked grass. One of them had a bell; he could hear the small clank! of it as she moved. The yaffles had moved off as well—he caught the flash of scarlet as one flew low across the field and disappeared into the black mouth of the trail.

He let a moment go by, two, and then shifted his weight and made a small menacing noise in the back of his throat.

“Aye, aye,” Jenny said, rolling her eyes at him. “Of course I’ll tell ye. I had to fettle my mind, first, ken?” She rearranged her skirts and settled herself more firmly. “Aye, then—this is the way of it. As ye told it to me, at least





Excerpt "It will be alright"

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“Bear? Oh, is that what ye’re up to. Claire wondered.” She loosed the eager goats and they dived headfirst into the thick grass like ducks in a millpond.

“Did she, then. “ He kept his voice casual.

“She didna say so,” his sister said frankly. “But she saw your gun was gone , while we were makin’ breakfast, and she stopped dead, only for an instant.”

His heart squeezed a little. He hadn’t wanted to waken Claire when he left in the dark, but he should have told her last night that he meant to see if he could get upon the trail of the bear Jo Beardsley had seen. There’d been little time for hunting while they worked to get a roof raised before winter—they needed the meat and grease badly. Brianna’s foot was better, but wouldn’t stand days on the trail—besides, they had only a few quilts and one woolen trade blanket he’d got from a Moravian trader. A good bear-rug would be a comfort to Claire in the deep cold nights; she felt the cold more now than the last time they’d spent a winter on the Ridge.

“She’s all right,” his sister said, and he felt her interested gaze on his own face. “She only wondered, ken.”

He nodded, wordless. It might be a wee while yet, before Claire could wake to find him gone out with a gun, and think nothing of it.

He took a breath, and saw it wisp out white, vanishing instantly, though the new sun was already warm on his shoulders.

“Aye, and what are ye doing up here, yourself? It’s a far piece to walk for forage.” One of the goats had come up for air and was nosing the hanging end of his leather belt in an interested manner. He tucked it up out of reach and kneed the goat gently away.

“I’m fattening them to stand the winter,” she said, nodding at the nosy nanny. “Maybe breed them, if they’re ready. They like the grass better than the forage in the woods, and it’s easier to keep an eye on them.”

“Ye ken well enough Jem and Germain and Fanny would mind them for ye. Is wee Oggy drivin’ ye mad?” The baby was teething, and had vigorous lungs. You could hear him at the Big House when the wind was right. “Or are ye drivin’ Rachel mad yourself?”

“I like goats,” she said, ignoring his question and shoving aside a pair of questing lips nibbling after the fringe of her shawl. “[Shoo, goat. - Gaelic] Sheep are good-hearted things, when they’re not tryin’ to knock ye over, but they’re no bright. A goat has a mind of its own.”

“Aye, and so do you. Ian always said ye liked the goats because they’re just as stubborn as you are.”

She gave him a long, level look.

“Pot,” she said succinctly.

“Kettle,” he replied, flicking a plucked grass-stem toward her nose. She grabbed it out of his hand and fed it to the goat.

“Mphm,” she said. “Well, if ye must know, I come up here to think, now and then,” she said . “And pray.”

“Oh, aye?” he said, but she pressed her lips together for a moment and then turned to look across the meadow, shading her eyes against the slant of the morning sun.

_Well enough_, he thought. _She’ll say whatever it is when she’s ready_.

“There’s a bear up here, is there?” she asked, turning back to him. “Shall I take the goats back down?”

“Not likely. Jo Beardsley saw it a few days ago, here in the meadow, but there’s no fresh sign.”

Jenny thought that over for a moment, then sat down on a lichened rock, spreading her skirts out neatly. The goats had gone back to their grazing, and she raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes.

“Only a fool would hunt a bear alone,” she said, her eyes still closed. “Claire told me that last week.”

“Did she?” he said dryly. “Did she tell ye the last time I killed a bear, I did it alone, with my dirk? And she hit me in the heid wi’ a fish whilst I was doin’ it?”

She opened her eyes and gave him a look.

“She didna say a fool canna be lucky,” she pointed out. “And if you didna have the luck o’ the devil himself, ye’d have been dead six times over by now.”

“Six?” He frowned, disturbed, and her brow lifted in surprise.

“I wasna really counting,” she said. “It was only a guess. What is it, _a graidh_?”

That casual “_O, lov_e,” caught him unexpectedly in a tender place, and he coughed to hide it.

“Nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Only, when I was young in Paris, a fortune-teller told me I’d die nine times before my death. D’ye think I should count the fever after Laoghaire shot me?”

She shook her head definitely.

“Nay, ye wouldna have died even had Claire not come back wi’ her wee stabbers. Ye would have got up and gone after her within a day or two.”

He smiled.

“I might’ve.




Excerpt "And a few Mohawks"

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Eats Turtles swallowed the last of his turkey hash and gave a loud belch of appreciation in Rachel’s direction, then handed her his plate, saying, “More,” before resuming the story he had been telling between bites. Fortunately, it was mostly in Mohawk, as the parts that had been in English appeared to deal with one of his cousins who had suffered a very comical partial disembowelment following an encounter with an enraged moose.

Rachel took the plate and refilled it, staring very hard at the back of Eats Turtles’ head and envisioning the light of Christ glowing within him. Owing to an orphaned and penurious childhood, she had had considerable practice in such discernment, and was able to smile pleasantly at Turtles as she placed the newly-filled plate at his feet, not to interrupt his gesticulations.

On the good side, she reflected, glancing into the cradle, the men’s conversation had lulled Oggy into a stupor. With a glance that caught Ian’s eye, and a nod toward the cradle, she went out to enjoy a mother’s rarest pleasure: ten minutes alone in the privy.

Emerging relaxed in body and mind, she was disinclined to go back into the cabin. She thought briefly of walking down to the Big House to visit Brianna and Claire—but Jenny had gone down herself when it became apparent that the Mohawks would spend the night at the Murrays’ cabin. Rachel was very fond of her mother-in-law, but then, she adored Oggy and loved Ian madly—and she really didn’t want the company of any of them just now.

The evening was cold, but not bitter, and she had a thick woolen shawl. A gibbous moon was rising amid a field of glorious stars, and the peace of Heaven seemed to breathe from the autumn forest, pungent with conifers and the softer scent of dying leaves. She made her way carefully up the path that led to the well, paused for a drink of cold water, and then went on, coming out a quarter-hour later on the edge of a rocky outcrop that gave a view of endless mountains and valleys, by day. By night, it was like sitting on the edge of eternity.

Peace seeped into her soul with the chill of the night, and she sought it, welcomed it. But there was still an unquiet part of her mind, and a burning in her heart, at odds with the vast quiet that surrounded her.

Ian would never lie to her. He’d said so, and she believed him. But she wasn’t fool enough to think that meant he told her everything she might want to know. And she very much wanted to know more about Wakyo’tenensnohnsa, the Mohawk woman Ian had called Emily…and loved.

So now she was perhaps alive, perhaps not. If she did live…what might be her circumstances?

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder how old Emily might be, and what she looked like. Ian hadn’t ever said; she hadn’t ever asked. It hadn’t seemed important, but now…

Well. When she found him alone, she would ask, that’s all. And with determination, she turned her face to the moon and her heart to her inner light and prepared to wait.

[end section]

It was maybe an hour later when the darkness near her moved and Ian was suddenly there beside her, a warm spot in the night.

“Is Oggy awake?” she asked, drawing her shawl around her.

“Nay, lass, he’s sleeping like a stone.”

“And thy friends?”

“Much the same. I gave them a bit of Uncle Jamie’s whisky.”

“How very hospitable of thee, Ian.”

“That wasna exactly my intention, but I suppose I should take credit for it, if it makes ye think more highly of me.”

He brushed the hair behind her ear, bent his head and kissed the side of her neck, making his intention clear. She hesitated for the briefest instant, but then ran her hand up under his shirt and gave herself over, lying back on her shawl beneath the star-strewn sky.

_Let it be just us, once more_, she thought. _If he thinks of her, let him not do it now_.

And so it was that she didn’t ask what Emily looked like, until the Mohawks finally left, three days later




Excerpt "Every dawn is a new day"

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It was warm and cozy under the heap of quilts and furs—even more warm and cozy by contrast with the icy touch of the morning on my face. I drew a long, clean breath of the new air, hoping that it didn’t smell of snow. We’d been lucky—very lucky—so far; it had rained only twice since we’d left home, and we were very nearly out of the mountains.

If today kept fine, nothing broke on the wagon, neither of the mules cracked a hoof or developed colic, the two horses refrained from biting pieces out of each other (and us) and nobody of an unfriendly nature took an interest in us, we might make it into the upper reaches of the Piedmont by nightfall.

I didn’t smell snow. I smelled smoke, with an alluring tinge of boiling coffee. I smiled, not yet opening my eyes. Jamie was up, then—of course he was; he always woke half an hour before sunup, unless sick or injured, and while I didn’t smell the light of dawn, I could see the faint glow of it through my closed eyelids. Fanny stirred beside me, cuddled close and butted her head into my upper arm. On my other side, Germain lay sprawled on his back, snoring like a small buzz-saw.

Coffee or not, I didn’t want to get up, but knew I had to. Beyond hunger and the need to pee, I could feel Jamie’s urgency. We had to make as much distance as we could before nightfall; the weather became more of a threat with each day, and even if we escaped the mountain passes before the snow came, slogging through knee-deep mud in the Piedmont wasn’t my idea of fun.

“Wake up, Sassenach,” said a low Scottish voice, and an instant later, large icy hands slid under the furs and grabbed both my feet in a grip of iron. I shrieked, and so did both children, exploding out of the covers like a covey of quail.

“What-what-what…” Fanny was crouched at the back of the canvas shelter, big-eyed as a marmoset, her hair in a tangle.

“[ French bad word ],” Germain muttered balefully under his breath. “What’s this? The end of the world?”

“No, it’s morning,” Jamie said patiently. He was squatting at the mouth of our shelter, fully clad in hunting shirt, breeks and plaid, and the scents of smoke and coffee drifted alluringly past him.

“Much the same sort of thing,” Germain grumbled and made to crawl back under the covers.

“Get up, ye wee sluggard.” Jamie seized him by the ankle and pulled. “Look to the ant and be wise, aye?”

“Ants?” Fanny had sat down and was combing her hair with her fingers. “Are ants wise?” She sounded bewildered, but not discomposed. Unlike Germain—and me, for that matter—she normally woke in full possession of her faculties.

“It’s a wee bit from the Bible, Frances,” Jamie said, letting go of Germain, who was now halfway out of the tent, though still supine. He smiled at her, ruddy and cheerful in the rising light. “I’ll buy ye one of your own, in Wilmington




 Excerpt "War will mark you"

Excerpt veterans day DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIHaveGONE #BookNine #ForVeteransDay


“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them._

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier.” Then, abruptly, “Claire and Brianna say the war is coming to the south. I canna shield them, should it come close.” He nodded toward the distant sparks, and it was clear to Roger that by “them,” he meant his tenants—his people. He didn’t pause for a reply, but re-settled the creel on his shoulder and started down.

The trail narrowed. Roger’s shoulder brushed Jamie’s, close, and he fell back a step, following his father-in-law. The moon was late in rising tonight, and sliver-thin. It was dark and the air had a bite in it now.

“I’ll help you protect them,” he said to Jamie’s back. His voice was gruff.

“I ken that,” Jamie said, softly. There was a short pause, as though Jamie was waiting for him to speak further, and he realized that he should.

“With my body,” Roger said quietly, into the night. “And with my soul, if that should be necessary.”

He saw Jamie in brief silhouette, saw him draw breath deep and his shoulders relax as he let it out. They walked more briskly now; the trail was dark, and they strayed now and then, the brush catching at their bare legs.
At the edge of their own clearing, Jamie paused to let Roger come up with him, and laid a hand on his arm.

“The things that happen in a war—the things that ye do…they mark ye,” he said at last, quietly. “I dinna think bein’ a priest will spare you, is what I’m sayin’, and I’m sorry for it.”

_They’ve marked you. And I’m sorry for it_. But he said nothing; only touched Jamie’s hand lightly where it lay upon his arm. Then Jamie took his hand away and they walked home together, silent




Excerpt "Happy Halloween"

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“Mama’s been busy,” Brianna said, automatically turning the potatoes on one shelf as she selected a dozen to take. “I suppose you have, too,” she added, smiling at Fanny. “You helped gather all of this, I’m sure.”

Fanny looked down modestly, but glowed a little.

“I dug up the turnips and some of the potatoes,” she said. “There were a lot growing in that place they call Old Garden. Under the weeds.”

“Old Garden,” Bree repeated. “Yes, I suppose so.” A shiver that had nothing to do with the chill of the root cellar rose up her neck and contracted her scalp. Her mother had written in a letter, with a brevity that made her words strike like rubber bullets, about Malva Christie’s death in the garden. And the death of her unborn child. Under the weeds, indeed.

She glanced sidelong at Fanny, who was twisting an onion off its braid, but the girl showed no emotion about the garden; probably no one had told her—_yet_, Bree thought—about what had happened there, and why the garden had been abandoned to the weeds.

“Should we take more potatoes?” Fanny asked, dropping two fat yellow onions into the basket. “And maybe apples, for fritters? If it doesn’t stop raining, those men will stay the night. And we haven’t any eggs for breakfast.”

“Good thought,” Bree said, quite impressed at Fanny’s housewifely forethought. The remark turned her mind, though, to the mysterious visitors.

“What you said to Da—about one of the men being an officer. How did you know that?” _And how did Da know you would know something like that_? she added silently.

Fanny looked at her for a long moment, her face quite expressionless. Then she seemed quite suddenly to have made up her mind about something, for she nodded, as though to herself.

“I’ve seen them,” she said simply. “Lots of times. At the brothel.”

“At the—“ Brianna nearly dropped the pawpaw she’d picked off the upper shelf.

“Brothel,” Fanny repeated, the word clipped short. Bree had turned to look at her; she was pale, but her eyes were steady under her cap. “In Philadelphia.”

“I see.” Brianna hoped her own voice and eyes were as steady as Fanny’s, and tried to speak calmly, in spite of the inner, appalled voice saying, _Jesus Lord, she’s only eleven_! “Did…um…Da—is that where he found you?”

Fanny’s eyes welled quite suddenly with tears, and she turned hurriedly away, fumbling with a shelf of apples.

“No,” she said in a muffled voice. “My—my sister…she…we…we wan away togevver.”

“Your sister,” Bree said carefully. “Where—“

“She’th dead.”

“Oh, Fanny!” She’d dropped the pawpaw, but it didn’t matter. She grabbed Fanny and held her tight, as though she could somehow smother the dreadful sorrow that oozed between them, squeeze it out of existence. Fanny was shaking, silently. “Oh, Fanny,” she said again, softly, and rubbed the girl’s back as she would have done for Jem or Mandy, feeling the delicate bones beneath her fingers.

It didn’t last long. After a moment, Fanny got hold of herself—Bree could feel it happen, a stopping, a drawing in of the flesh—and stepped back, out of Bree’s embrace.

“It’s all right,” she said, blinking fast to keep more tears from coming. “It’s all right. She’s—she’s safe now.” She drew a deep breath and straightened her back. “After—after it happened, William gave me to Mr. Fraser. Oh!” A thought stuck her and she looked uncertainly at Bree. “Do you—know about William?”

For a moment, Bree’s mind was completely blank. _William_? But suddenly the penny dropped, and she looked at Fanny, startled.

“William. You mean…Mr. Fraser’s…Da’s…son?” Saying the word brought him to life; the tall young man, cat-eyed and long-nosed, dark where she was fair, speaking to her on the quay in Wilmington.

“Yes,” Fanny said, still a little wary. “I think—does that mean he’s your brother?”

“Half-brother, yes.” Brianna felt dazed, and bent to pick up the fallen fruit. “You said he _gave_ you to Da?”

“Yes.” Fanny took another breath, and bent to pick up the last apple. Standing, she looked Bree straight in the eye. “Do you mind?”

“No,” Bree said, softly, and touched Fanny’s tender cheek. “Oh, Fanny, no. Not at all.”




Excerpt "Happy Birthday Claire"

Finished segment of an otherwise written daily line.
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[Here we find Jamie and Claire, sitting beside a dying bonfire. The MacKenzies have just arrived, and after a celebratory dinner, have gone down the hill to spend the night at a cabin—Jamie and Claire elect to stay and see the fire out, then sleep on a quilt under the stars. They talk for a while about what’s happened and the wonder of having their family back. But in the way of long-married people, the conversation now and then doubles back on itself, in recollection…]


“…the night we made Faith.”

I lifted my head in surprise.
“You _know_ when she was conceived? _I_ don’t know that.”

He ran his hand slowly down my back, fingers pausing to rub circles in the small of it. If I’d been a cat, I would have waved my tail gently under his nose.

“Aye, well, I suppose I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought it was the night I came to your bed at the Abbey.”

For a moment, I groped among my memories. That time at the Abbey of Ste. Anne, when he’d come so close to a self-chosen death, was one I seldom revisited. It was a terrifying time of fear and confusion, despair and desperation. And yet when I did look back, I found a handful of vivid images, standing out like the illuminated letters on a page of ancient Latin.

Father Anselm’s face, pale in candlelight, his eyes warm with compassion and then the growing glow of wonder as he heard my confession. The abbot’s hands, touching Jamie’s forehead, eyes, lips and palms, delicate as a hummingbird’s touch, anointing his dying nephew with the holy chrism of Extreme Unction. The quiet of the darkened chapel where I had prayed for his life, and heard my prayer answered.

And among these moments was the night when I woke from sleep to find him standing . a pale wraith by my bed, naked and freezing, so weak he could barely walk, but filled once more with life and a stubborn determination that would never leave him.

“You remember her, then?” My hand rested lightly on my stomach, recalling. He’d never seen her, or felt her as more than random kicks and pushes from inside me.

He kissed my forehead briefly, then looked at me.

“Ye ken I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I just wanted you to tell me more.”

“Oh, I mean to.” He settled himself on one elbow and gathered me in so I could share his plaid.

“Do you remember that, too?” I asked, pulling down the fold of cloth he’d draped over me. “Sharing your plaid with me, the night we met?”

“To keep ye from freezing? Aye.” He kissed the back of my neck. “It was me freezing, at the Abbey. I’d worn myself out tryin’ to walk, and ye wouldna let me eat anything, so I was starving to death, and—“

“Oh, you _know_ that’s not true! You—“


“Would I lie to ye, Sassenach?

“Yes, you bloody would,” I said, “You do it all the time. But never mind that now. You were freezing and starving, and suddenly decided that instead of asking Brother Roger for a blanket or a bowl of something hot, you should stagger naked down a dark stone corridor and get in bed with me.”

“Some things are more important than food, Sassenach.” His hand settled firmly on my arse. “And finding out whether I could ever bed ye again was more important than anything else just then. I reckoned if I couldn’t, I’d just walk on out into the snow and not come back.”

“Naturally, it didn’t occur to you to wait for a few more weeks and recover your strength.”

“Well, I was fairly sure I could walk that far leaning on the walls, and I’d be doin’ the rest lying down, so why wait?” The hand on my arse was idly stroking it now. “Ye do recall the occasion.”

“It was like making love to a block of ice.” It had been. It had also wrung my heart with tenderness, and filled me with a hope I’d thought I’d never know again. “Besides, you thawed out after a bit.”

Only a bit, at first. I’d just cradled him against me, trying as hard as possible to generate body heat. I’d pulled off my shift, urgent to get as much skin contact as possible. I remembered the hard, sharp curve of his hipbone, the knobs of his spine and the ridged fresh scars over them.

“You weren’t much more than skin and bones.”

I turned, drew him down beside me now and pulled him close, wanting the reassurance of his present warmth against the chill of memory. He _was_ warm. And alive. Very much alive.

“Ye put your leg over me to keep me from falling out the bed, I remember that.” He rubbed my leg slowly, and I could hear the smile in his voice, though his face was dark with the fire behind him, sparking in his hair.

“It was a small bed.” It had been—a narrow monastic cot, scarcely large enough for one normal-sized person. And even starved as he was, he’d occupied a lot of space.

“I wanted to roll ye onto your back, Sassenach, but I was afraid I’d pitch us both out onto the floor, and…well, I wasna sure I could hold myself up.”

He’d been shaking with cold and weakness. But now, I realized, probably with fear as well. I took the hand resting on my hip and raised it to my mouth, kissing his knuckles. His fingers were cold from the evening air and tightened on the warmth of mine.

“You managed,” I said softly, and rolled onto my back, bringing him with me.

“Only just,” he murmured, finding his way through the layers of quilt, plaid, shirt and shift. He let out a long breath, and so did I. “Oh, Jesus, Sassenach.”

He moved, just a little.

“What it felt like,” he whispered. “Then. To think I’d never have ye again, and then…”

He _had_ managed, and it _was_ just barely.

“I thought—I’d do it if it was the last thing I ever did…”

“It almost bloody was,” I whispered back, and took hold of his bottom, firm and round. “I really did think you’d died, for a moment, until you started to move.”

“Thought I was going to,” he said, with the breath of a laugh. “Oh, God, Claire…” He stopped for a moment, lowered himself and pressed his forehead against mine. He’d done it that night, too, cold-skinned and fierce with desperation, and I’d felt I was breathing my own life into him then, his mouth so soft and open, smelling faintly of the ale mixed with egg that was all he could keep down.

“I wanted…” he whispered. “I wanted you. Had to have ye. But once I was inside ye, I wanted….”

He sighed then, deep, and moved deeper.

“I thought I’d die of it, then and there. And I wanted to. Wanted to go—while I was inside ye.” His voice had changed, still soft but somehow distant, detached--and I knew he’d moved away from the present moment, gone back to the cold stone dark and the panic, the fear and overwhelming need.

“I wanted to spill myself into ye and let that be the last I ever knew, but then I started, and I kent it wasna meant to be that way—but that I would keep myself inside ye forever. That I was givin’ ye a child.”

He’d come back in the speaking, back into the now and into me. I held him tight, big and solid and strong in my arms, and shaking, helpless as he gave himself up. I felt warm tears well up and slide down cold into my hair.

After a time, he stirred and rolled off onto his side. A big hand still rested light on my belly.

“I did manage, aye?” he said, and smiled a little, firelight soft on his face.

“You did,” I said, and pulling the plaid back over us, I lay with him, content in the light of dying flame and eternal stars.




Excerpt "Happy Thanksgiving" 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all our Canadian Friends!!

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#GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #HappyCanadianThanksgiving !


There was a stone under my right buttock, but I didn’t want to move. The tiny heartbeat under my fingers was soft and stubborn, the fleeting jolts life and the space between, infinity, my connection to the endless night sky and the rising flame.

“Move your arse a bit, Sassenach,” said a voice in my ear. “I need to scratch my nose and ye’re sitting on my hand.” Jamie twitched his fingers under me, and I moved by reflex, turning my head toward him as I shifted and resettled, keeping my hold on Mandy, bonelessly asleep in my arms.

He smiled at me over Jem’s tousled head, flexed his now-free hand, and scratched his nose. It must be well past midnight, but the fire was still high, and the light sparked off the stubble of his beard and glowed as softly in his eyes as in his grandson’s red hair and the shadowed folds of the worn plaid he’d wrapped about them both.

On the other side of the fire, Brianna laughed, in the quiet way people laugh in the middle of the night with sleeping children near.

She laid her head on Roger’s shoulder, her eyes half-closed. She looked completely exhausted, her hair unwashed and tangled, the firelight showing deep hollows in her face…but happy.

“What is it ye find funny, a nighean?” Jamie asked, shifting Jem into a more comfortable position. Jem was fighting as hard as he could to stay awake, but was losing the fight. He gaped enormously and shook his head, blinking like a dazed owl.

“Wha’s funny?” he repeated, but the last word trailed off, leaving him with his mouth half-open and a glassy stare.

His mother giggled, a lovely girlish sound, and I felt Jamie’s smile.

“I just asked Daddy if he remembered a Gathering we came to, years ago. The clans were all called at a big bonfire and I handed Daddy a burning branch and told him to go down to the fire and say the MacKenzies were there.”

“Oh.” Jem blinked once, then twice, looked at the fire blazing in front of us, and a slight frown formed between his small red brows. “Where are we now?”

“Home,” Roger said firmly, and his eyes met mine, then passed to Jamie. “For good.”

Jamie let out the same breath I’d been holding since the afternoon, when the MacKenzies had appeared suddenly in the clearing below, and we had flown down the hill to meet them. There had been one moment of joyous, wordless explosion as we all flung ourselves at each other, and then the explosion had widened, as Amy Higgins came out of her house, summoned by the noise, to be followed by Bobby, then Aidan—who had whooped at sight of Jem and tackled him, knocking him flat—Orrie and little Rob.

Jo Beardsley had been in the woods nearby, heard the racket and come to see…and within what seemed like moments, the clearing was alive with people. Six households were within reach of the news before sundown; the rest would undoubtedly hear of it tomorrow.

The instant outpouring of Highland hospitality had been wonderful; women and girls had run back to their cabins and fetched whatever they had baking or boiling for supper, the men had gathered wood and—at Jamie’s behest—lugged it up to the crest where the outline of the New House stood, and we had welcomed home our family in style, surrounded by friends.

Hundreds of questions had been asked of the travelers: where had they come from? How was the journey? What had they seen? No one had asked if they were happy to be back; that was taken for granted by everyone.



Excerpt  "Healing touch finished segment" 

These daily lines are wonderful. From @writer_dg FB
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[In which, Claire has been examining Roger’s throat, and discussing Dr. MacEwan’s treatment.]

I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.

“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside.
This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to _HELL_!”

Different segment 

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Roger raised his chin and I reached up carefully, fitting my fingers about his neck, just under his jaw. He’d just shaved; his skin was cool and slightly damp and I caught a whiff of the shaving soap Brianna made for him, scented with juniper berries. I was moved by the sense of ceremony in that small gesture--and moved much more by the hope in his eyes that he tried to hide.

“You know—“ I said hesitantly, and felt his Adam’s apple bob below my hand.

“I know,” he said gruffly. “No expectations. If something happens…well, it does. If not, I’m no worse off.”

I nodded, and felt gently about. I’d done that before, after his injury, tending the swelling and the rope-burn, now a ragged white scar. The tracheotomy I’d performed to save his life had left a smaller scar in the hollow of his throat, a slight depression about an inch long. I passed my thumb over that, feeling the healthy rings of cartilage above and below. The lightness of the touch made him shiver suddenly, tiny goosebumps stippling his neck, and he gave the breath of a laugh.

“Goose walking on my grave,” he said.

“Stamping about on your throat, more like,” I said, smiling. “Tell me again what Dr. MacEwan said.”

I hadn’t taken my hand away, and felt the lurch of his Adam’s apple as he cleared his throat hard.

“He prodded my throat—much as you’re doing,” he added, smiling back. “And he asked me if I knew what a hyoid bone was. He said—“ Roger’s hand rose involuntarily toward his throat, but stopped a few inches from touching it, “—that mine was an inch or so higher than usual, and that if it had been in the normal place, I’d be dead.”

“Really,” I said, interested. I put a thumb just under his jaw and said, “Swallow, please.”

He did, and I touched my own neck and swallowed, still touching his.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “It’s a small sample size, and granted, there may be differences attributable to gender—but he may well be right. Perhaps you’re a Neanderthal.”

“A what?” He stared at me.

“Just a joke,” I assured him. “But it’s true that one of the differences between the Neanderthals and modern humans is the hyoid. Most scientists think they hadn’t one at all, and therefore couldn’t speak, but my Uncle Lamb said--you rather need one for coherent speech” I added, seeing his blank look. “It anchors the tongue.”

“How extremely fascinating,” Roger said politely.

I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.

“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside. This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to HELL!”

Roger leapt to his feet and thrust aside the makeshift gauze screen that covered the window.

“Amanda!” he bellowed. “Come in here right now!” Over his shoulder, I saw Amanda, face contorted with rage, trying to grab her doll, Esmeralda, which Germain was dangling by one arm, just above her head, dancing to keep away from Amanda’s concerted attempts to kick him.

Startled, Germain looked up, and Amanda connected full-force with his shin. She was wearing the stout half-boots Jamie had bought for her from the cobbler in Salem, and the crack of impact was clearly audible, though instantly superceded by Germain’s cry of pain. Jemmy, looking appalled, grabbed Esmeralda, thrust her into Amanda’s arms, and with a guilty glance over his shoulder, ran for the woods, followed by a hobbling Germain.

“Jeremiah!” Roger roared. “Stop right there!” Jem froze as though hit by a death-ray; Germain didn’t, and vanished with a wild rustling into the shrubbery.

I’d been watching the boys, but a faint choking noise made me glance sharply at Roger. He’d gone pale, and was clutching his throat with both hands. I seized his arm.

“Are you all right?”

“I…don’t know.” He spoke in a rasping whisper, but gave me the shadow of a pained smile. “Think I—might have sprained something.”

“Daddy?” said a small voice from the doorway. Amanda sniffled dramatically, wiping tears and snot all over her face. “Is you mad at me, Daddy?”

Roger took an immense breath, coughed, and went over, squatting down to take her in his arms.

“No, sweetheart,” he said softly—but in a fairly normal voice, and something clenched inside me began to relax. “I’m not mad. You mustn’t tell people they’re going to hell, though. Come here, let’s wash your face.” He stood up, holding her, and turned toward my mixing table, where there was a basin and ewer.

“I’ll do it,” I said, reaching out for Mandy. “Maybe you want to go and…er…talk to Jem?”

“Mmphm,” he said, and handed her across. A natural snuggler, Mandy at once clung affectionately to my neck and wrapped her legs around my middle.

“Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?” she asked. “Dose bad boys got her dirty!”

I listened with half an ear to Mandy’s mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before—it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were—but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.

“Wassat, Grannie?” Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

“What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash.” I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion…no fever, though…perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

“No, _dat_.” Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. “Issa letter!” She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. “Letter J!” she announced triumphantly. “J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy,” she added, frowning.

“Er…” I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter “J.” The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart—years of heartbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

“It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie,” I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.

“Mandy,” I said, on impulse. “What color is my hair?”

“_When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power_.” An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.

Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, “Brindle.”

“What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?”

“Grand-da. He said it’s what color Charlie is.” Charlie was a rather stylish pig belonging to the Beardsley household.

“Hmm,” I said. “Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry.”




Excerpt "Blue Wine"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #NoItIsntFinished #MaybeNextYear #WeWillSee #BlueWine

It was what her mother called a “blue wine” day. One where air and sky were one thing together and every breath intoxication. Brown leaves crackled with each step, the scent of them sharp as that of the pine needles higher up. They were climbing the mountain, guns in hand, and Brianna Fraser MacKenzie was one with the day.

Her father held back a hemlock branch for her and she ducked past to join him.

“[Gaelic for “sweet grass”],” he said, gesturing to the wide meadow that spread before them. “Recall any of the Gaidhlìg, do ye, lass?”

“You said something about the grass,” she said, scrabbling hastily through her mental closets. “But I don’t know [sweet].”

“Sweet Grass. It’s what we call this wee meadow. Good pasture, but too great a climb for most of the stock, and ye dinna want to leave them here for days untended, because o’ painters and bears.”

The whole of the meadow rippled, the ripened heads of millions of grass-stems in movement catching morning sun. Here and there, late butterflies cruised and at the far side of the grass, there was a sudden crash as some large ungulate vanished into the brush, leaving branches swaying in its wake.

“A certain amount of competition as well, I see,” she said, nodding toward the place where the animal had disappeared. She lifted an eyebrow, wanting to ask whether they should not pursue it, but assuming that her father had some good reason why not, since he made no move.

“Aye, some,” he said, and turned to the right, moving along the edge of the trees that rimmed the meadow. “But deer dinna feed the same way cattle or sheep do, at least not if the pasture’s good. That was an old buck,” he added off-handedly over his shoulder. “We dinna want to kill those in autumn, save for need; the meat’s not good so close to rut, and game’s not scarce.”

She raised both brows, but followed without comment. He turned his head and smiled at her.

“Where there’s one, there are likely more, this time o’ year. The does begin to gather into wee herds. It’s no quite rut yet, but the bucks are thinkin’ on it. He kens well enough where they are.” He nodded in the direction of the vanished deer. “We’ll follow him.”

She suppressed a smile, recalling some of her mother’s uncensored opinions on men and the functions of testosterone. He saw it, though, and gave her a half-rueful look of amusement, knowing what she was thinking, and the fact that he did sent a small sweet pang through her heart.

“Aye, well, your mother’s right about men,” he said with a shrug. “Keep it in mind, a nighean,” he added, more seriously. He turned then, lifting his face into the breeze. “They’re upwind of us, we won’t get near, save we climb up and come down on them from the far side.”

She nodded, and checked the priming on her gun. She was carrying the family fowling piece, while her father had his good rifle. She wouldn’t fire on any small game, though, while there was a chance of spooking deer nearby. She had so loved to hunt with him, before, and never thought such a day would come again.

It was a steep climb, and she found herself puffing, sweat starting to purl behind her ears in spite of the cool day. Her father climbed, as ever, like a mountain goat, without the slightest appearance of strain, but—to her chagrin—noticed her struggling and beckoned her aside, onto a small ledge.

“We’re in nay hurry, a nighean,” he said, smiling at her. “There’s water here.” He reached out, with an obvious tentativeness, and touched her flushed cheek, quickly taking back his hand.

“Sorry, lass,” he said, and smiled. “I’m no used yet to the notion that ye’re real.”

“I know what you mean,” she said softly, and swallowing, reached out and touched his face, warm and clean-shaven, slanted eyes deep blue as hers.

“Och,” he said under his breath, and gently brought her into his arms. She hugged him tight and they stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.




Excerpt "What's in the bag"


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We’d eaten supper on our new front stoop, there being no table or benches for the kitchen as yet, but for the sake of ceremony, I had made molasses cookie dough early in the day and set it aside. Everyone trooped inside and unrolled their miscellaneous bedding—Jamie and I did have a bed, but the MacKenzies would all be sleeping on pallets before the fire—and sat down to watch with keen anticipation as I dropped the cookies onto my girdle and slid the cool black iron circle into the glowing warmth of the Dutch oven.

“How long, how long, how long, Grannie?” Mandy was behind me, standing on tiptoes to see. I turned and lifted her up, so she could see the girdle and cookies in the glowing shadows of the brick cubbyhole built into the wall of the huge hearth. The fire we had lighted at dawn had been fed all day, and the brick surround was radiating heat—and would, all night.

“See how the dough is in balls? And you can feel how hot it is—don’t _ever_ put your hand in the oven—but the heat will make those balls flatten out and then turn brown, and when they do, the cookies will be done. It takes about ten minutes,” I added, setting her down. “It’s a new oven, though, so I’ll have to keep checking.”

“Goody, goody, goody, goody!” She hopped up and down with delight, then threw herself into Brianna’s arms. “Mama! Read me a story ‘til da cookies are done?”

Bree’s eyebrows lifted and she glanced at Roger, who smiled and shrugged.

“Why not?” he said, and went to rootle through the pile of miscellaneous belongings stacked against the kitchen wall.

“Ye brought a book for the bairns? That’s braw,” Jamie said to Bree. “Where did ye get it?”

“Do they actually make books now for children Mandy’s age?” I asked, looking down at her. Bree had said she could read a bit already, but I’d never seen anything in an 18th century printshop that looked like it would be comprehensible—let alone appealing—to a three-year-old.

“Well, more or less,” Roger said, pulling Bree’s big canvas bag out of the pile. “That is, there were—are, I mean--a few books that are _intended_ for children. Though the only titles that come to mind at the moment are _Hymns for the Amusement of Children, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes_, and _Descriptions of Three Hundred Animals_.”

“What sorts of animals?” Jamie asked, looking interested.

“No idea,” Roger confessed. “I’ve not seen any of those books; just read the titles on a list in a scholarly journal.”

“Did you ever print any books for children, in Edinburgh?” I asked Jamie, who shook his head. “Well, what did you read when you were in school?”

“As a bairn? The Bible,” he said, as though this should be self-evident. “And the almanac. After we learnt the ABC, I mean. Later we did a bit of Latin.”

“I want _my_ book,” Mandy said firmly. “Gimme, Daddy. Please?” she added, seeing her mother’s mouth open. Bree shut her mouth and smiled, and Roger peered into the sack, then withdrew!


Excerpt "Conversations by a dying fire"


#DailyLines #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #BookNine #noitsnotoutyet #noIdontknowhen #sometimeafterIfinishwritingitprobably #TakingChances #ConversationsByADyingFire

We were silent for a time, and Roger’s head nodded; I thought he was nearly asleep, and was gathering my legs under me to rise and collect everyone for bed, when he lifted his head again.

“One thing…”

“Yes?”

“Have you met a man—ever—named William Buccleigh MacKenzie? Or maybe Buck MacKenzie?”

“No,” I said slowly. “Though the name sounds familiar. Who is he?”

Roger rubbed a hand over his face, and slowly down his throat, to the white scar left by a rope.

“Well…he’s the man who got me hanged, to begin with. But he’s also my five-times great-grandfather. Neither one of us knew that at the time,” he said, almost apologetically.

“I see,” I said, though I didn’t, quite. “And so….?”

“He’s Geillis Duncan’s son by Dougal MacKenzie,” Roger said quietly.

“Jesus H… Oh, I beg your pardon. Are you still a minister?”

He smiled at that, though the marks of exhaustion carved runnels in his face.

“I don’t think it wears off,” he said. “But if ye were about to say ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,’ I wouldn’t mind it. Appropriate to the situation, ye might say.”

And in a few words, he told me the strange story of the witch’s child, and how Buck MacKenzie had ended in Scotland in 1980, only to travel back with Roger, in an effort to find Jem.

“There’s a great deal more to it than that,” he assured me. “But the end of it—for now—is that we left him in Scotland. In 1739. With…erm….”

“With _Geillis_?” My voice rose involuntarily and Mandy twitched and made small cranky noises. I patted her hastily and shifted her to a more comfortable position. “Did _you_ meet her?”

“Yes. Erm…interesting woman.” There was a mug on the ground beside him, still half full of beer; I could smell the yeast and bitter hops from where I sat. He picked it up and seemed to be debating whether to drink it or pour it over his head, but in the event, took a gulp and set it down.

“I—we—wanted him to come with us. Of course there was the risk, but we’d managed to find enough gemstones, I thought we could make it, all together. And…his wife is here.” He waved vaguely toward the distant forest. “In America, I mean. Now.”

“I…dimly recall that, from your genealogy.” Though experience had taught me the limits of belief in anything recorded on paper.

Roger nodded, drank more beer, and cleared his throat, hard. His voice was hoarse and cracking from tiredness.

“I take it you forgave him for—“ I gestured briefly at my own throat. I could see the shadow of the small scar I’d left on his when I did an emergency tracheotomy with a pen knife and the amber mouthpiece of a pipe.

“I loved him,” he said simply. A faint smile showed through the black stubble and the veil of tiredness. “How often do you get the chance to love someone who gave ye their blood, their life, and them never knowing who ye might be, or even if ye’d exist at all?”

“Well, you do take chances when you have children,” I said, and laid a hand gently on Jem’s head. It was warm, the hair unwashed but soft under my fingers. He and Mandy smelled like puppies, a sweet, thick animal scent, rich with innocence.

“Yes,” Roger said softly. “You do.”


Excerpt "A hunting we will go!"


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As they rose higher and the timber opened out, the breeze rose and freshened, and Ian halted, beckoning her with a small movement of his fingers.
“D’ye hear them?” he breathed in her ear.
She did, and the hairs rippled pleasantly down her backbone. Small, harsh yelps, almost like a barking dog. And farther off, a sort of intermittent purr, something between a large cat and a small motor.
“Best take off your stockings and rub your legs wi’ dirt,” Ian whispered, motioning toward her woolen stockings. “Your hands and face as well.”
She nodded, set the gun against a tree, and scratched dry leaves away from a patch of soil, moist enough to rub on her skin. Ian, his own skin nearly the color of his buckskins, needed no such camouflage. He moved silently away while she was anointing her hands and face, and when she looked up, she couldn’t see him for a moment.
Then there was a series of sounds like a rusty door hinge swinging to and fro, and suddenly she saw him, standing stock still behind a [tree] some fifty feet away.
The forest seemed to go dead for an instant, the soft scratchings and leaf-murmurs ceasing. Then there was an angry gobble and she turned her head as slowly as she could, to see a tom turkey poke his pale blue head out of the grass and look sharp from side to side, wattles bright red and swinging, looking for the challenger.
She cut her eyes at Ian, his hands cupped at his mouth, but he didn’t move or make a sound. She held her breath and looked back at the turkey, who emitted another loud gobble—this one echoed by another tom at a distance. The turkey she was watching glanced back toward that sound, lifted his head and yelped, listened for a moment, and then ducked back into the grass. She glanced at Ian; he caught her movement and shook his head, very slightly.
They waited for the space of sixteen slow breaths—she counted—and then Ian gobbled again. The tom popped out of the grass and strode across a patch of open, leaf-packed ground, blood in his eye, breast feathers puffed and tail fanned out to a fare-thee-well. He paused for a moment to allow the woods to admire his magnificence, then commenced strutting slowly to and fro, uttering harsh, aggressive cries.
Moving only her eyeballs, she glanced back and forth between the strutting tom and Ian, who timed his movements to those of the strutting turkey, sliding the bow from his shoulder, freezing, bringing an arrow to hand, freezing, and finally nocking the arrow as the bird made its final turn.
Or what should have been its final turn. Ian bent his bow and in the same movement, released his arrow and uttered a startled, all-too-human yelp as a large, dark object dropped from the tree above him. He jerked back and the turkey barely missed landing on his head. She could see it now, a hen, feathers fluffed in fright, running with neck outstretched across the open ground toward the equally startled tom, who had deflated in shock.
By reflex, she seized her shotgun, brought it to bear and fired. She missed, and both turkeys disappeared into a patch of ferns, making noises that sounded like a small hammer striking a wood block.
The echoes died away and the leaves of the trees settled back into their murmur. She looked at her cousin, who glanced at his bow, then across the open ground to where his arrow was sticking absurdly out from between two rocks. He looked at her, and she burst into laughter


Excerpt "Gone a hunting" 


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“Oh, aye,” Ian said, and smiled, but his eyes were intent on her hands. “How long since ye’ve fired a gun, cousin?”

“Not that long,” she said tersely. She hadn’t expected it to come back. “Maybe six, seven months.”

“What were ye hunting then?” He asked, head on one side.

She glanced at him, made the decision and pushing the ramrod carefully home, turned to face him.

“A gang of men who were hiding in my house, waiting to kill me and take my kids,” she said.

Both his feathery brows went up.

“Did ye get them?” His tone was so interested that she laughed, in spite of the memories. He might have been asking if she’d caught a large fish.

“No, alas. I shot out the tire on their truck, and one of the windows in my own house. I didn’t get them. But then,” she added, with affected casualness, “they didn’t get me or the kids, either.”

He nodded, accepting what she’d said with a rapidity that would have astonished her—had it been any other man.

“That would be why ye’re here, aye?” He glanced around, quite unconsciously, as though scanning the forest for possible enemies, and she wondered quite suddenly what it would be like to live with Ian, never knowing whether you were talking to the Scot or the Mohawk—and now she was _really_ curious about Rachel.

“Mostly, yes,” she answered, a little tersely. He picked up her tone and glanced sharply at her, but nodded again.

“Will ye go back, then, to kill them?” This was said seriously, and it was with an effort that she tamped down the rage that seared through her when she thought of Rob Cameron and his bloody accomplices. It wasn’t fear or flashback that had made her hands shake now; it was the memory of the overwhelming intent to kill that had possessed her when she touched the trigger.

“I wish,” she said shortly. She flapped a hand, pushing it all away. “I’ll tell it to you later; we only came last night.” As though reminded of the long, hard push upward through the mountain passes, she yawned suddenly, hugely.

Ian laughed, and she shook her head, blinking.

“Do I remember Da saying you have a baby?” she asked, firmly changing the subject.

The huge grin came back.

“I have,” he said, his face shining with such joy that she smiled, too. “I’ve got a wee son. He hasna got his real name yet, but we call him Oggy. For Oglethorpe,” he explained, seeing her smile widen at the name. “We were in Savannah when he started to show. I canna wait for ye to see him!”

“Neither can I,” she said, though the connection between Savannah and the name Oglethorpe escaped her. “Should we—“

The sound of a distant noise cut her short and Ian was on his feet instantly, looking.

“Was that Da?” she asked.

“I think so.” Ian gave her a hand and hauled her to her feet, snatching up his bow almost in the same motion. “Come!”

She grabbed the newly-loaded gun and ran, careless of brush, stones, tree-branches, creeks, or anything else. Ian slithered through the wood like a fast-moving snake; she bulled her way through behind him, breaking branches and dashing her sleeve across her face to clear her eyes.

Twice Ian came to a sudden halt, grasping her arm as she hurtled toward him. Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.

The first time, after what seemed like agonized minutes, they caught a sort of squalling noise above the wind, tailing off into grunts.

“Pig?” she asked, between gulps of air. It was autumn; there would be herds of wild hogs in the forest, rooting through the chestnut mast. Some of them were big, and very dangerous.

Ian shook his head.

“Bear,” he managed, and seizing her hand, pulled her into a run.


Revised older daily line, book 9 with new title announced: Excerpt "Tell The Bees That I Am Gone"


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“And do Presbyterians have martyrs?” Jamie asked dubiously. “I mean—ye havena got saints, do ye?”

“Why this sudden interest in Presbyterian doctrine?” Roger said, taking care to make the question a light one. “Thinking of converting?”

He heard a brief grunt of amusement.

“I am not. It’s only that I’ve been thinking of late.”

“Ye want to watch that sort of thing,” Roger said, leaning down to unsnag a briar that had grabbed the knee of his breeks. “All right in moderation, I mean, but too much of it will give you the indigestion—mental _and_ physical.”

“Ye’re no wrong there,” Jamie said dryly. “Tell me a way to make it stop that doesna require excessive drink. I need the whisky to sell.”

A faint hooting, as of a distant troop of gibbons, floated through the gathering dusk.

“Well, a close proximity to bairns will certainly do it,” Roger said, smiling at the sound. “When Jem learned to talk, Bree used to tell me she couldn’t manage two consecutive thoughts unless she stuffed something into his mouth. It was a wonder he didn’t burst from over-feeding.”

“Aye, that’s so,” Jamie said, his own tone lightening. “Your wee maid’s clishmaclaver would take a man’s mind off his own hanging.”

That particular image startled Roger, though Jamie’s words had been off-hand.

“Is that the direction of your recent thoughts, then?” he asked, after a brief pause.

After a longer one, Jamie replied, “Aye, some of them.”

_Ah. Hence the question about martyrs_… He didn’t say anything, but lengthened his stride a little, coming even with Jamie. He didn’t say anything, though; plainly his father-in-law wasn’t done talking.

“I dinna ken,” Jamie said finally, obviously taking care with his words, “if I could bring myself to die for an idea. No that it isn’t a fine thing,” he added hurriedly. “But…I asked Brianna whether any o’ those men—the ones who thought of the notions and the words ye’d need to make them real—whether any of them actually did the fighting.”

“I don’t think they did,” Roger said dubiously. “Will, I mean. Unless you count George Washington, and I don’t believe he does so much talking.”

“He talks to his troops, believe me,” Jamie said, a wry humor in his voice. “But maybe not to the King, or the newspapers.”

“No. Mind,” Roger added in fairness, pushing aside a pine branch, thick with a pungent sap that left his palm sticky, “John Adams, Ben Franklin, Tom Paine, all the thinkers and talkers—they’re risking their necks as much as you—as we--are.”

“Aye.” The ground was rising steeply now, and nothing more was said as they climbed, feeling their way over the broken ground of a gravel-fall.

“I’m thinking that maybe I canna die—or lead men to their own deaths—only for the notion of freedom. Not now.”

“Not now?” Roger echoed, surprised. “You could have—earlier?”

“Aye. When you and the lass and your weans were…there.” Roger caught the brief movement of a hand, flung out toward the distant future. “The idea would be there for ye. Because what I did here then would be—it would _matter_, aye? To all of you—and I can fight for you.” His voice grew softer. “It’s what I’m made to do, aye?”

“I understand,” Roger said quietly. “But ye’ve always known that, haven’t you?”

Jamie made a sound in his throat, half-surprised.

“Dinna ken when I knew it,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Maybe at Leoch, when I found I could get the other lads into mischief—and did. Perhaps I should be confessing that?”

Roger brushed that aside.

“It will matter to Jem and Mandy—and to those of our blood who come after them,” he said. _Provided Jem and Mandy survive to have children of their own_, he added mentally, and felt a cold qualm in the pit of this stomach at the thought.

“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.


“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them_.

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier



Excerpt "Some things never change"


#DailyLines #BookNINE #ImWorkingOnIt #AllInGoodTime #JamieAndClaire #SomeThingsNeverChange


“…the night we made Faith.”

I lifted my head in surprise.

“You _know_ when she was conceived? _I_ don’t know that.”

He ran his hand slowly down my back, fingers pausing to rub circles in the small of it. If I’d been a cat, I would have waved my tail gently under his nose.

“Aye, well, I suppose I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought it was the night I came to your bed at the Abbey.”

For a moment, I groped among my memories. That time at the Abbey of Ste. Anne, when he’d come so close to self-chosen death, was one I seldom revisited. It was a terrifying time of fear and confusion, despair and desperation. And yet when I did look back, I found a handful of vivid images, standing out like the illuminated letters on a page of ancient Latin.

Father Anselm’s face, pale in candlelight, his eyes warm with compassion and then the growing glow of wonder as he heard my confession. The abbot’s hands, touching Jamie’s forehead, eyes, lips and palms, delicate as a hummingbird’s touch, anointing his dying nephew with the holy chrism of Extreme Unction. The quiet of the darkened chapel where I had prayed for his life, and heard my prayer answered.

And among these moments was the night when I woke from sleep to find him standing, a pale wraith by my bed, naked and freezing, so weak he could barely walk, but filled once more with life and a stubborn determination that would never again leave him.

“You remember her, then?” My hand rested lightly on my stomach, recalling. He’d never seen her, or felt her as more than random kicks and pushes from inside me.

He kissed my forehead briefly, then looked at me.

“Ye ken I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I just wanted you to tell me more.”

“Oh, I mean to.” He settled himself on one elbow and gathered me in so I could share his plaid.

“Do you remember that, too?” I asked, pulling down the fold of cloth he’d draped over me. “Sharing your plaid with me, the night we met?”

“To keep ye from freezing? Aye.” He kissed the back of my neck. “It was me freezing, at the Abbey. I’d worn myself out tryin’ to walk, and ye wouldna let me eat anything, so I was starving to death, and—“

“Oh, you _know_ that’s not true! You—“

“Would I lie to ye, Sassenach?

“Yes, you bloody would,” I said, “You do it all the time. But never mind that now. You were freezing and starving, and suddenly decided that instead of asking Brother Roger for a blanket or a bowl of something hot, you should stagger naked down a dark stone corridor and get in bed with me.”

“Some things are more important than food, Sassenach.” His hand settled firmly on my arse. “And finding out whether I could ever bed ye again was more important than anything else just then. I reckoned if I couldn’t, I’d just walk on out into the snow and not come back.”

“Naturally, it didn’t occur to you to wait for a few more weeks and recover your strength.”

“Well, I was fairly sure I could walk that far leaning on the walls, and I’d be doin’ the rest lying down, so why wait?”



Excerpt "Nobility Problems" 

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"Miss England?" Hal asked abruptly.

"Sometimes," William answered honestly. "But I don’t think about it much," he added, with less honesty.

"I do." His uncle s face looked relaxed, almost wistful in the fading light. "But you haven’t a wife there, or children. No establishment of your own, yet."

"No."

The sounds of the camp were still audible, but muted by the rhythm of the surf at their feet, the passage of the silent clouds above their heads.

The trouble with silence was that it allowed the thoughts in his head to take on a tiresome insistence, like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. Cinnamon’s company, disturbing as it occasionally was, had allowed him to escape them when he needed to.
"How does one go about renouncing a title?"

He hadn’t actually been intending to ask that just yet, and was surprised to hear the words emerge from his mouth. Uncle Hal, by contrast, didn’t seem surprised at all.

"You can’t."

William glared down at his uncle, who was still looking imperturbably out to sea, the wind pulling strands of his dark hair from his queue.

"What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?"

Uncle Hal looked at him with an affectionate impatience.

"I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done."

"But you—" William stopped, baffled.

"No, I didn’t," his uncle said dryly. "If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I could do is stop using the title of "Duke," and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that," he added off-handedly.

"Really?" William asked cynically. "Who did you maim?"

He actually had supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

"Oh… several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life."

"Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?"

"Yes," his uncle said briefly. "But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg."

"Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?"

"Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise… but that’s beside the point." Hal caught himself and shook his head to clear it. Evening was coming on, and the offshore breeze was brisk. He wrapped his cloak about his body and nodded toward the town.

"Let’s go. The tide’s coming in and I’m dining with Sir Henry in half an hour."



Excerpt  "Roger"

For those of our number who have paid for our freedom with their bodies, their lives, and their souls.

#DailyLines #BookNine #MemorialDay2016

“No. Mind,” Roger added in fairness, pushing aside a pine branch, thick with a pungent sap that left his palm sticky, “John Adams, Ben Franklin, all the thinkers and talkers—they’re risking their necks as much as you—as we--are.”

“Aye.” The ground was rising steeply now, and nothing more was said as they climbed, feeling their way over the broken ground of a gravel-fall.

“I’m thinking that maybe I canna die—or lead men to their own deaths—only for the notion of freedom. Not now.”

“Not now?” Roger echoed, surprised. “You could have—earlier?”

“Aye. When you and the lass and your weans were…there.” Roger caught the brief movement of a hand, flung out toward the distant future. “Because what I did here then would be—it would _matter_, aye? To all of you—and I can fight for you.” His voice grew softer. “It’s what I’m made to do, aye?”

“I understand,” Roger said quietly. “But ye’ve always known that, haven’t you?”

Jamie made a sound in his throat, half-surprised.

“Dinna ken when I knew it,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Maybe at Leoch, when I found I could get the other lads into mischief—and did. Perhaps I should be confessing that?”

Roger brushed that aside.

“It will matter to Jem and Mandy—and to those of our blood who come after them,” he said. _Provided Jem and Mandy survive to have children of their ow_n, he added mentally, and felt a cold qualm in the pit of this stomach at the thought.

“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them._

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier.” Then, abruptly, “Claire and Brianna say the war is coming to the south. I canna shield them, should it come close.” He nodded toward the distant sparks, and it was clear to Roger that by “them,” he meant his tenants—his people. He didn’t pause for a reply, but re-settled the creel on his shoulder and started down.

The trail narrowed. Roger’s shoulder brushed Jamie’s, close, and he fell back a step, following his father-in-law. The moon was late in rising tonight, and sliver-thin. It was dark and the air had a bite in it now.

“I’ll help you protect them,” he said to Jamie’s back. His voice was gruff.

“I ken that,” Jamie said, softly. There was a short pause, as though Jamie was waiting for him to speak further, and he realized that he should.

“With my body,” Roger said quietly, into the night. “And with my soul, if that should be necessary.”

He saw Jamie in brief silhouette, saw him draw breath deep and his shoulders relax as he let it out. They walked more briskly now; the trail was dark, and they strayed now and then, the brush catching at their bare legs.

At the edge of their own clearing, Jamie paused to let Roger come up with him, and laid a hand on his arm.

“The things that happen in a war—the things that ye do…they mark ye,” he said at last, quietly. “I dinna think bein’ a priest will spare you, is what I’m sayin’, and I’m sorry for it.”

_They’ve marked you. And I’m sorry for it_. But he said nothing; only touched Jamie’s hand lightly where it lay upon his arm. Then Jamie took his hand away and they walked home together a silent.



Excerpt  continue of A Stubborn Mind

#DailyLines #BookNINE #Noitsnotoutyet #Itllbeawhile #inthemeantime #HappyBirthdayJamie !

I sat still, watching him.

“I suppose it was foolish,” I said at last. “To think that reassurances and promises would be enough. I imagine we don’t know the half of what she saw, being raised in a brothel like a—a prize calf.”


"And one knowing it was bound for slaughter?” he put in quietly. “Aye.”

We lapsed into a strained silence, both thinking of Fanny. After a few moments, Jamie’s hands resumed their work, slowly, and a few moments later, he glanced at me.

“How many times did ye tell me Jack Randall was dead, Sassenach? How many times did I tell myself that?” The wood shavings fell in small, fragrant curls around his feet. “Some ghosts dinna leave ye easily—and ye ken fine that it’s her sister who’s haunting wee Frances.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said unhappily. It wasn’t quite a shiver that I felt at mention of Jane—but a cold sadness that seemed to sink through my skin. “But surely there’s something we can do to help?”

“I expect there is.” He set the cleaned stick of wood aside, and bent to sweep the shavings onto a sheet of paper. “Were we in reach of a priest, I should have a Mass said for the repose of her sister’s soul, to start with. If I can find one in Wilmington, we’ll do that. But otherwise…I’ll speak to Roger Mac about it.” His mouth twisted wryly.

“I daresay Presbyterians dinna believe in exorcism, or prayers for the dead, either. But he’s a canny man, and he kens the heart; he may call it something else, but he’ll know what I mean—and he can speak wi’ Frances, and pray for her, I’m sure.”

The thought of involving Roger gave me a slight sense of comfort, but my attention was caught by the word “Wilmington.”

“Do you mean to take Frances to Wilmington, then?”

“I hadna thought of it before, but now I’m thinking we must. If she’s thoughts like that in her head, I wouldna leave her here without us. X kent better than to do it but there are lads on the Ridge—decent lads,” he added, with an attempt at fairness, “I dinna mean to say otherwise—but ones who dinna ken what bides wi’ Frances. And one of them..."

“The flesh is weak? Yes, I see what you mean.”

He shook the wood shavings into the fire, where they caught at once, curling into brightness and sending up a clean, sweet smoke. I came to stand behind him, watching them burn, and put my hands on his shoulders, warm and solid under my fingers. He leaned his head back against me and sighed, closing his eyes as he relaxed in the warmth. I bent my head and kissed the whorl of the cowlick on his crown.

“Mmphm,” he said, and reached up a hand to take mine. “Ken, it works the other way, too.”

“What does?”

“The stubbornness of a mind that willna let go.” He squeezed my hand and looked up at me. “While we were parted, how many times did ye tell yourself I was dead, Sassenach?” he asked softly. “How often did ye try to forget me?”

I stood motionless, hand curled round his, until I thought I could speak.

“Every day,” I whispered. “And never.”


Excerpt 23 "JamieAndBrianna"

#DailyLines #BookNINE #IllTellYouWhenItsDone #JamieAndBrianna #TellMeYourDreams

“Did your Mam ever tell ye of the dream I had? Soon after ye…went away.” He couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder, to be sure no one was in earshot.

“No.” She was looking at him with deep interest, a small line between her brows, and he couldn’t help smiling at her. “Was it a funny dream?” she asked.

“Och, no. I was only smiling because ye looked so much like Claire, there. When she’s trying to puzzle out what’s the matter with someone, I mean.”

She didn’t laugh, but the transitory dimple that sometimes appeared in her right cheek flashed for an instant.

“Nobody ever says I look like Mama,” she said. “They carry on all the time about how much like _you_ I look.”

“Oh, ye look like your mother often,” he assured her. “It’s just that it’s no a matter of hair or eyes or how tall ye are. It’s the look on your face when ye touch Jem or Mandy—or when ye’re talkin’ with Roger Mac in the evening on the porch, and the light of the moon in your eyes.”

His own voice had gown soft and husky, and he looked down at the ground, the plastering of layer upon layer of dead leaves, like dying stars beneath his boots.

“Ye look like your mother in love, is all I mean. Exactly like her.”



Excerpt "House building"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎HouseBuilding‬ ‪#‎NoItsNotDone‬‪#‎IllTellYouWhenItIs‬ ‪#‎YoullGetSeasonTwoFirst‬ ‪#‎ThatShouldKeepYouBusy

At least we _had_ a roof. The sheet of canvas overhead rippled like the skin of a horse with flies, then rose suddenly, swelling with wind, and before I could say a word, it ripped free of the wooden framing and flapped off like an ungainly gray vulture. An iron tack dropped at my feet, landing with a tiny _ping_!
“[ Gaelic ] !” Jamie said, glaring up at the empty space where the tarpaulin had been.
“Misbegotten spawn of a…what on earth is [ Gaelic ]?” I said. I’d heard [Misbegotten spawn] often enough to recognize that much, but the rest of the curse was novel.
“A mangy hide,” he said succinctly. “And a skunk. _Ifrinn_!” He turned on his heel, and suddenly punched the door jamb. I flinched. He hissed through his teeth and clutched his knuckles with his other hand, but didn’t say anything further.
“I’ll…um…go and fetch it, shall I?” I said, looking up through the empty space where the tarpaulin had been. The sky was dark with bulbous clouds, filled with imminent menace, and the storm wind was swirling round the half-built room, restlessly picking up small items and dropping them.
“I’ll get it,” he said tersely, and vanished through the open door-frame, sticking his head back in for an instant to say, “Chickens?” before vanishing again.

#DailyLines #BookNine #ComingStorm #noitsnotdone #noitdoesnthaveatitleyet #notheresnocoveryet #JustBreathe #ItllBeFine

At least we _had_ a roof. Of sorts. Or so I’d thought. The sheet of canvas overhead rippled like the skin of a horse with flies, then rose suddenly, swelling with wind, and before I could say a word, it ripped free of the rafters, rose further, and flapped off like an ungainly gray vulture. A small shower of iron tacks pinged off the floorboards at my feet.

“[ Gaelic ] !” Jamie said in Gaelic, glaring up at the empty space where the tarpaulin had been.
“Misbegotten spawn of a…what on earth is a [ Gaelic ]? Let alone a [Gaeli]?” I said, bending to pick up the tack. I’d heard “Misbegotten spawn” often enough to recognize that much, but the rest of the curse was novel.

“A maggot-eaten hide,” he said succinctly. “And a skunk. _Ifrinn_!”
“They haven’t got skunks in Scotland. There isn’t a Gaelic word for them, is there?”
“There is now.”

He turned on his heel, and suddenly punched the door jamb. I flinched. He hissed through his teeth and flexed his hand, but didn’t say anything further.

“I’ll…um…go and fetch it, shall I?” I said, looking up through the empty space where the tarpaulin had been. The sky was dark with bulbous clouds, filled with imminent menace, and the wind of the coming storm was swirling round the half-built room, restlessly picking up small items and dropping them.

Jamie looked up, too, grimacing, and shook his head.

“I’ll get it. Ye’d best fetch the chickens, Sassenach, or they’ll be blown over Roan Mountain by nightfall.” He vanished down the ladder, landing seconds later with a distinct thud at the bottom. I followed, somewhat less nimbly.




Excerpt "An Easter Egg"

#DailyLines #BookNINE #AnEasterEgg

[In which a massive storm breaks on Fraser’s Ridge, and Claire rushes out to rescue the chickens.]

I stood gasping for a moment, wiping sweat off my face with my apron, but a premonitory spatter of raindrops against the hide covering the window sent me running for the back door, seizing a large covered basket on my way.

Fourteen Nankin hens, four Scots Dumpys and two roosters. The Nankin hens liked to roost in the low branches of the hornbeam near their coop, but the roosters could be anywhere…

Sure enough, a number of round, wind-ruffled shapes were huddled together in clumps amid the lower branches of the hornbeam. One, two, three, four, five… I counted as I snatched them out of the tree and stuffed them ruthlessly into my basket. They squawked but didn’t really resist; chickens are not bright, but I thought they might have enough sense to be thankful at being rescued from the coming storm. The air temperature had dropped a good ten degrees in the last few minutes.

Eight so far….where were the others?

“Chook-chook-chook-chook-chook!” I called, my voice scarcely audible above the wind. A faint squawk, torn away, but enough to turn my attention toward the hen-coop. Yes, two more underneath, the big red hen, huddling over her brood of tiny chicks, and one of the roosters, feathers standing out like quills and his yellow eyes quite mad—he pecked savagely at my wrist when I reached for the red hen, drawing blood.

I said a few things under my breath and seized him by the neck. I was tempted to wring it then and there, but instead stood up, jerked open the door of the coop and tossed him into it, narrowly avoiding being ripped by his spurs. I decanted the contents of the basket after him, dropped to my knees and grabbed the red hen, threw her into the coop as well, then slammed the door, fell to my knees and scrabbled madly after the chicks.

The rain was starting to fall in earnest now, no more of this playful pattering. Cold drops struck my back, hard as pebbles. How many chicks were there? I was tossing them into my apron, trying to keep count as I reached into the deep shadows under the coop. My fingers struck something hard that rolled—a stray egg. Heartened by that, I stuck it into my pocket and with a last inquiring, “chook-chook?” decided I had them all and shook the little balls of fluff into the warm dark of the reeking coop, where they dashed about like so many crazed ping-pong balls before zeroing in on their clucking mother.

I closed the door and dropped the latch, then stood breathing heavily for a moment, realizing that the reason the raindrops fell so cold and heavily was that they were in fact hailstones. Tiny white spheres were bouncing off my head and dancing on the ground, rapidly covering the scattered bits of cracked corn and chicken droppings.

I pulled the shawl over my head and searched under the [ ] bushes near the coop, then further up the path toward Malva’s Garden—the hens loved to go in there and eat the ghastly tomato hookworms off the wild vines, more power to them—but there was no sign of movement among the pokeweeds and [ ], other than the wind. The hail stopped as abruptly as it had started, and I shook melting bits of ice off my shoulders, wondering where the hell to look next.

I threw back my head and shouted, “Cock-a-doodle-dooooo!” several times, as loudly as I could; sometimes you could induce a pugnacious rooster to answer you, but not today.

I felt an increasing sense of panic. The wind was whipping my skirts around my legs and I could feel the spatter of fine drops against my cheeks; Jamie hadn’t been wrong in his predictions of what would happen to the hens—I’d lost many, over the years, to foxes and other predators, but many more to the vagaries of the weather. If they weren’t blown away, they might well freeze to death sitting in a tree overnight, their feathered carcasses thumping to the ground at dawn like cannon balls.

I ran down the path to the spring-house—no sign of chickens—then up and across to the privy; the Dumpys liked to shelter in the honeysuckle vines sometimes…

The door stood ajar—some thoughtless male had doubtless neglected to close it properly—and I pulled it open, though gingerly. I’d once opened a privy door and surprised an enormous rattlesnake, coiled on the seat. The surprise had been sufficiently mutual that I’d never again opened such a door without caution.

The caution was justified on this occasion, though the privy luckily contained neither chickens nor snakes. It did contain a startled red squirrel, who ran up the wall and clung to the rooftree, tail bushed out and chattering angrily at me.

“If you think you’re storing nuts in _here_ for the autumn,” I said, leveling a forefinger at him, “think again.”

A sudden thunder of fresh hail on the tin roof galvanized me back into action and I ran toward the barn through a small blizzard. If any of those damned hens were out in this, they’d be killed—these hailstones were the size of unripe gooseberries and almost as hard, stinging where they struck my unprotected hands and face.

The barn door was halfway open; I glimpsed Clarence the mule’s gray bulk in the gloom, and he brayed companionably at me when I stepped in, breathless with running through a hailstorm. He wasn’t in a stall; he’d evidently leapt the fence and walked sensibly into the barn when he felt the weather coming on. He was casually plucking mouthfuls of hay from the pile on the floor, despite the fact that another refugee from the storm was using the hay as well. The white sow was reclining majestically in the scattered heap, accompanied by two black-spotted daughters, each about half her size, all of them looking pleased with themselves.

I hadn’t come this close to the white sow in a couple of years, and stopped dead at sight of her, so near at hand. She was immense—I gauged her at something between five and six hundred pounds at the moment—and well-known for her irascible temperament.

“Fancy meeting _you_ here,” I said, pressing myself against the wall and trying not to make any move she might regard as threatening. Even Clarence was maintaining a respectful distance from the porcine trio. I glanced to and fro—if the chickens were in here, they could bloody well stay here--but nothing moved along the walls or scrabbled for grain on the hard-packed dirt of the floor. Possibly the pigs had eaten them.

I edged back out, carefully leaving the door half-open. If a pig that size had a mind to leave a place, it left, and the presence or absence of a door was immaterial.

The hail had turned back into rain, and it was pissing down. What now? I wrapped the shawl more tightly round my body and prepared to make a run for the house. If the remaining chickens hadn’t found shelter by now, it was likely too late.




Excerpt  "Forgiveness"

Daily lines #book9 Forgiveness Jamie kills Rapist

He took a deep breath, and his fists flexed briefly, then relaxed.
“No. Forgiveness doesna make things go away. Ye ken that as well as I do.” He turned his head to look at me, in curiosity. “Don’t ye?”

There were no more than a few inches between us, but the aching distance between our hearts reached miles. Jamie was silent for a long time. I could hear my heart, beating in my ears…
“Listen,” he said at last.
“I’m listening.” He looked sideways at me, and the ghost of a smile touched his mouth. He held out a broad, pitch-stained palm to me.

“Give me your hands while ye do it, aye?”
“Why?” But I put my hands into his without hesitation, and felt his grip close on them. His fingers were cold, and I could see the hairs on his forearm ruffled with chill where he’d rolled up his sleeves to help Fanny with the gun.

“What hurts you cleaves my heart,” he said softly. “Ye ken that, aye?”
“I do,” I said, just as softly. “And you know it’s true for me, too. But—” I swallowed, and bit my lip. “It—it seems…”
“Claire,” he interrupted, and looked at me straight. “Are ye relieved that he’s dead?”

“Well…yes,” I said unhappily. “I don’t want to feel that way, though; it doesn’t seem right. I mean—” I struggled to find some clear way to put it. “On the one hand—what he did to me wasn’t…mortal. I hated it, but it didn’t physically hurt me; he wasn’t trying to hurt me or kill me. He just…”
“Ye mean, if it had been Harley Boble ye met at Beardsley’s, ye wouldna have minded my killing him?” he interrupted, with a tinge of irony.

“I would have shot him myself, on sight.” I blew out a long, deep breath. “But that’s the other thing. There’s what he—the man—do you know his name, by the way?”
“Yes, and you’re not going to, so dinna ask me,” he said tersely.

I gave him a narrow look, and he gave it right back. I flapped my hand, dismissing it for the moment.
“The other thing,” I repeated firmly, “is that if I’d shot Boble myself—you wouldn’t have had to. I wouldn’t feel that you were…damaged by it.”

His face went blank for a moment, then his gaze sharpened again.
“Ye think it damaged me to kill him?”
I reached for his hand, and held it.

“I bloody know it did,” I said quietly. And added in a whisper, looking down at the scarred, powerful hand in mine, “what hurts you cleaves my heart, Jamie.”
His fingers curled tight over mine.




Excerpt 20 "A stubborn mind"

#DailyLines #BookNine #AStubbornMind

“But you told Frances—you _promised_ her that no one would take advantage of her. And I could have sworn she believed you!”

“Aye,” Jamie said quietly. He picked up the piece of rock maple and his knife, and began mechanically cutting slivers. “Aye, I thought so, too—hoped so, at least.”
I sat still, watching him.

“I suppose it was foolish,” I said at last. “To think that reassurances and promises would be enough. I imagine we don’t know the half of what she saw, being raised in a brothel like a—a prize calf.”
“And one knowing it was bound for slaughter?” he put in quietly. “Aye.”

We lapsed into a strained silence, both thinking of Fanny. After a few moments, Jamie’s hands resumed their work, slowly, and a few moments later, he glanced at me.

“How many times did ye tell me Jack Randall was dead, Sassenach? How many times did I tell myself that?” The wood shavings fell in small, fragrant curls around his feet. “Some ghosts dinna leave ye easily—and ye ken fine that it’s her sister who’s haunting wee Frances.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said unhappily. It wasn’t quite a shiver that I felt at mention of Jane—but a cold sadness that seemed to sink through my skin. “But surely there’s _something_ we can do to help?”

“I expect there is.” He set the cleaned stick of wood aside, and bent to sweep the shavings onto a sheet of paper. “Were we in reach of a priest, I should have a Mass said for the repose of her sister’s soul, to start with. If I can find one in Wilmington, we’ll do that. But otherwise…I’ll speak to Roger Mac about it.” His mouth twisted wryly.

“I daresay Presbyterians dinna believe in exorcism, or prayers for the dead, either. But he’s a canny man, and he kens the heart; he may call it something else, but he’ll know what I mean—and he can speak wi’ Frances, and pray for _her_, I’m sure.”

He shook the wood shavings into the fire, where they caught at once, curling into brightness and sending up a clean, sweet smoke. I came to stand behind him, watching them burn, and put my hands on his shoulders, warm and solid under my fingers. He leaned his head back against me and sighed, closing his eyes as he relaxed in the warmth. I bent my head and kissed the whorl of the cowlick on his crown.

“Mmphm,” he said, and reached up a hand to take mine. “Ken, it works the other way, too.”
“What does?”

“The stubbornness of a mind that willna let go.” He squeezed my hand and looked up at me. “While we were parted, how many times did ye tell yourself I was dead, Sassenach?” he asked softly. “How often did ye try to forget me?”
I stood motionless, hand curled round his, until I thought I could speak.

“Every day,” I whispered. “And never.”



Excerpt  "Nobility problems" part of #15

#DailyLines #BookNine #HalAndWilliam #WhenYouCantQuitYourJob
#NobilityProblems

“Miss England?” Hal asked abruptly.
“Sometimes,” William answered honestly. “But I don’t think about it much,” he added, with less honesty.
“I do.” His uncle’s face looked relaxed, almost wistful in the fading light. “But you haven’t a wife there, or children. No establishment of your own, yet.”
“No.”

The sounds of the camp were still audible, but muted by the rhythm of the surf at their feet, the passage of the silent clouds above their heads.
The trouble with silence was that it allowed the thoughts in his head to take on a tiresome insistence, like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. Cinnmon’s company, disturbing as it occasionally was, had allowed him to escape them when he needed to.
“How does one go about renouncing a title?”
He hadn’t actually been intending to ask that just yet, and was surprised to hear the words emerge from his mouth. Uncle Hal, by contrast, didn’t seem surprised at all.
“You can’t.”

William glared down at his uncle, who was still looking imperturbably out to sea, the wind pulling strands of his dark hair from his queue.
“What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?”
Uncle Hal looked at him with an affectionate impatience.

“I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done.”
“But you—“ William stopped, baffled.

“No, I didn’t,” his uncle said dryly. “If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I _could_ do is stop using the title of “Duke,” and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that,” he added off-handedly.
“Really?” William asked cynically. “Who did you maim?”

He actually _had_ supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

“Oh…several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life. “
“Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?”

“Yes,” his uncle said briefly. “But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg.”
“Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?”

“Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise…but that’s beside the point.” Hal caught himself and shook his head to clear it. Evening was coming on, and the offshore breeze was brisk. He wrapped his cloak about his body and nodded toward the town.
“Let’s go. The tide’s coming in and I’m dining with Sir Henry in half an hour.



Excerpt  "Brothers and sisters nip

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎brothersistersnip‬

“I like goats,” Jenny said, shoving aside a pair of questing lips. “[Shoo, goat.] Sheep are good-hearted things, save the ram-lambs tryin’ to knock ye over, but they’re no bright. A goat has a mind of its own.”
“Aye, and so do you. Ian always said ye liked the goats because they’re just as stubborn as you are.”
She gave him a long, level look.
“Pot,” she said succinctly.
“Kettle,” he replied, flicking his grass-stem toward her nose. She grabbed it out of his hand and fed it to the goat.



Excerpt  "And a couple of goats and maybe a bear"

Found here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDianaGabaldon/posts/883559828353521
‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎Book9‬ ‪#‎NoNotYet‬ ‪#‎ItllBeAwhile‬ 
‪#‎ImSlowYouKnow‬‪#‎JamieAndJenny‬ ‪#‎Andacoupleofgoats‬ ‪#‎andmaybeabear‬

“There’s a bear up here, is there?” Jenny asked, turning back to him. “Shall I take the goats back down?”
“It might be. Jo Beardsley saw it a few days ago, here in the meadow, but there’s no fresh sign.”
Jenny thought that over for a moment, then sat down on a lichened rock, spreading her skirts out neatly. The goats had gone back to their grazing, and she raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes.
“Only a fool would hunt a bear alone,” she said, her eyes still closed. “Claire told me that.”
“Did she?” he said dryly. “Did she tell ye the last time I killed a bear, I did it alone, with my dirk? _ And_ that she hit me in the heid wi’ a fish whilst I was doin’ it?”
She opened her eyes and gave him a look.
“She didna say a fool canna be lucky,” she pointed out. “And if you didna have the luck o’ the devil himself, ye’d have been dead six times over by now.”
“Six?” He frowned, disturbed, and her brow lifted in surprise.
“I wasna really counting,” she said. “It was only a guess. What is it, _a graidh_?”
That casual “_O, love_,” caught him unexpectedly in a tender place, and he coughed to hide it.
“Nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Only, when I was young in Paris, a fortune-teller told me I’d die nine times before my death. D’ye think I should count the fever after Laoghaire shot me?”
She shook her head definitely.
“Nay, ye wouldna have died even had Claire not come back wi’ her wee stabbers. Ye would have got up and gone after her within a day or two.”
He smiled.
“I might’ve.”
His sister made a small noise in her throat that might have been laughter or derision.
They were silent for a moment, both with heads lifted, listening to the wood. The dripping had ceased now, and you could hear a treepie close by, with a call exactly like a rusty hinge opening. Then there was a loud _quah-quah_ as a magpie called from somewhere behind him, and he saw Jenny look up over his shoulder wide-eyed.
“Just one?” he said, keeping his voice calm, but feeling a tightness between his shoulder-blades. _One for sorrow_…
She held up a hand, silencing him, and sat listening, her eyes combing the branches for a second bird. _ Two for mirth_… Her face lightened as a long, shrill _quahhhhhhh_ came from the left and he swung round to see the second magpie clinging to a swaying pine branch, a beady eye fixed on the ground. He relaxed and drew breath.
So did Jenny, and taking up the conversation where she’d left it, asked, “D’ye hold it against me, that I made ye marry Laoghaire?”
He gave her a look.
“What makes ye think ye could make me do_ anything_ I didna want to, ye wee fuss-budget?”
“What the devil is a fuss-budget?” she demanded, frowning up at him.
“A bag of nuisance, so far as I can tell,” he admitted. “Jemmy called Mandy it last week.” A sudden dimple appeared near Jenny’s mouth, but she didn’t actually laugh.
“Aye,” she said. “Ye ken what I mean.”
“I do,” he said. “And I don’t. Hold it against ye, I mean. She didna actually kill me, after all.”




Excerpt "Rising Bread"

#DailyLine #BookNine #RisingBread#Wealreadyknowshecancurdlemilk

“He’ll be all right,” Claire said, handing him a plate of scrambled eggs mixed with onions, dried apples, and sliced sausage, fried together. He took it, stomach rumbling at the smell despite his unquiet thoughts.

“And how did ye ken I was thinking of him?” he asked, raising a brow at her. She could normally tell if something troubled him, but he was reasonably sure his face hadn’t grown so transparent from long acquaintance that she could tell what it was.

“That’s his favorite breakfast,” she said, reaching across with her own fork to steal a bit of sausage. “You sighed before taking a bite, and I know you’re hungry.”

“Mmphm.” He took the bite now, savoring it. “Your cooking is getting better, Sassenach—or maybe it’s only that I’m hungry.”

She gave him a narrow look, but saw that he was jesting, and relaxed, reaching for a slice of partially charred toast. She was in fact a decent plain cook, though she couldn't make bread rise to save her life.

“They say that witches make rising bread dough fail,” he remarked.
“And cows run dry,” she replied, scraping the char off the oddly flattened toast. “Your point?”
“Only I wondered just now—can Brianna make bread?”
She stopped in the act of cutting a pat of butter, and stared at him.
“What—you think that being--” she waved the knife, dislodging the butter, “what we are—affects _yeast_?”
“How should I ken that?” He drizzled honey on his own toast and passed her the pot. “I only wondered.”


Excerpt "Martyrs"

#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎NOitisntfinished‬ ‪#‎WhenitisIlltellyou‬‪#‎Dontholdyourbreath‬

“And do Presbyterians have martyrs?” Jamie asked dubiously. “I mean—ye havena got saints, do ye?”
“Why this sudden interest in Presbyterian doctrine?” Roger said, taking care to make the question a light one. “Thinking of converting?”
He heard a brief grunt of amusement.
“I am not. It’s only that I’ve been thinking of late.”
“Ye want to watch that sort of thing,” Roger said, pausing to unsnag a briar that had grabbed the leg of his breeks. “All right in moderation, I mean, but too much of it will give you the indigestion—mental and physical.”
“Ye’re no wrong there,” Jamie said dryly. “Tell me a way to make it stop that doesna include excessive drink.”
A faint hooting, as of a distant troop of gibbons, floated through the gathering dusk.
“Well, a close proximity to bairns will certainly do it,” Roger said, smiling at the sound. “When Jem learned to talk, Bree used to tell me she couldn’t manage two consecutive thoughts unless she stuffed something into his mouth. It was a wonder he didn’t burst from over-feeding.”
“Aye, that’s so,” Jamie said, his own tone lightening. “Your wee maid’s clishmaclaver would take a man’s mind off his own hanging.”
That particular image startled Roger, though Jamie’s words had been off-hand.
“Is that the direction of your recent thoughts, then?” he asked, after a brief pause.
After a longer one, Jamie replied, “Aye, some of them.”
_Ah. Hence the question about martyrs_… He didn’t say anything, but lengthened his stride a little, coming even with Jamie.


Excerpt 19 "Hoola-Hoop"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎WorkingPeacefullyThisWeek‬ ‪#‎SoreFootButOK‬

It was a sapphire, a raw one. A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail. He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.
“Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not,” Buck said, nodding at it.
“I think not. I hope not. I wish I could say I can’t take it.” Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him. “Thank you, a charaidh. Where did ye find it?”
“Ach…” Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand. “Just saw it and picked it up, ken?”
“Holy Lord,” Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid. And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones…he’d declined, thank God. But—
“You didn’t,” he said to Buck. “Tell me ye didn’t.”
“Ye keep saying that,” Buck said, frowning at him. “I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies. A poor example for the bairns, aye?”
He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success. Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.
“Me, a poor example? And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!”
“And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?”
“I—“ His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard. The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass. “No. I’m not. But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them. To risk your bloody neck for us!” _That’s my job_, he wanted to say, but didn’t.
“May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.” Buck gave him a direct stare. “Ye need it, aye? Take it, then.” Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth. “With my blessing.”
On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist. She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.
“Look, Daddy!” she called. “Hula hoop!”
Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern. Roger shook his head slightly—_don’t say anything_—and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.
“What’s a hula hoop, then?” Buck asked quietly, behind him.



Excerpt 18 "A small Christmas present"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎ASmallChristmasPresent‬ ‪#‎AndYouThinkYOURChristmasDinnerIsALotOfWork‬ ‪#‎HappyNewYear‬

My breath steamed white in the dimness of the smoke-shed. No fire had been lit in here for over a month, and the air smelt of bitter ash and the tang of old blood.
“How much do you think this thing weighs?” Brianna put both hands on the shoulder of the enormous black and white hog lying on the crude table by the back wall and leaned her own weight experimentally against it. The shoulder moved slightly—rigor had long since passed, despite the cold weather—but the hog itself didn’t budge an inch.
“At a guess, it originally weighed somewhat more than your father. Maybe three hundred pounds on the hoof?” Jamie had bled and gralloched the hog when he killed it; that had probably lightened his load by a hundred pounds or so, but it was still a lot of meat. A pleasant thought for the winter’s food, but a daunting prospect at the moment.
I unrolled the pocketed cloth in which I kept my larger surgical tools; this was no job for an ordinary kitchen knife.
“What do you think about the intestines?” I asked. “Usable, do you think?”
She wrinkled her nose, considering. Jamie hadn’t been able to carry much beyond the carcass itself—and in fact had dragged that—but had thoughtfully salvaged twenty or thirty pounds of intestine. He’d roughly stripped the contents, but two days in a canvas pack hadn’t improved the condition of the uncleaned entrails, not savory to start with. I’d looked at them dubiously, but put them to soak overnight in a tub of salt water, on the off chance that the tissue hadn’t broken down too far to prevent their use as sausage casing.
“I don’t know, Mama,” Bree said reluctantly. “I think they’re pretty far gone. But we might save some of it.”
“If we can’t, we can’t.” I pulled out the largest of my amputation saws and checked the teeth. “We can make square sausage, after all.” Cased sausage was much easier to preserve; once properly smoked, they’d last indefinitely. Sausage patties were fine, but took more careful handling, and had to be packed into wooden casks or boxes in layers of lard for keeping…
“Lard!” I exclaimed, looking up. “Bloody hell--I’d forgotten all about that. We don’t have a kettle, bar the kitchen cauldron, and we can’t use that.” Rendering lard took a long time, and the kitchen cauldron supplied at least half our cooked food, to say nothing of hot water.
“Can we borrow one?” Bree glanced toward the door, where a flicker of movement showed. “Jem, is that you?”
“No, it’s me, auntie.” Germain stuck his head in, sniffing cautiously. “Mandy wanted to visit Rachel’s _petit bonbon_, and _Grand-pere_ said she could go if Jem or me would take her. We threw bones and he lost.”
“Oh. Fine, then. Will you go up to the kitchen and fetch the bag of salt from Grannie’s surgery?”
“There isn’t any,” I said, grasping the pig by one ear and setting the saw in the crease of the neck. “There wasn’t much, and we used all but a handful soaking the intestines. We’ll need to borrow that, too.”



Excerpt "Rachel"

The Second Sunday of Advent – On the second Sunday of Advent, we light the second purple candle, as a symbol of the hope that goes before us; a light in the darkness, a promise of the greater light to come.

[Excerpt is from Book Nine (Untitled, Unfinished, Unpublished). No, I have no idea when it’ll be done, but will let you know.]

Eats Turtles swallowed the last of his turkey hash and gave a loud belch of appreciation in Rachel’s direction, then handed her his plate, saying, “More,” before resuming the story he had been telling between bites. Fortunately, it was mostly in Mohawk, as the parts that had been in English appeared to deal with one of his cousins who had suffered a very comical partial disembowelment following an encounter with an enraged moose.

Rachel took the plate and refilled it, staring very hard at the back of Eats Turtles’ head and envisioning the light of Christ glowing within him. Owing to an orphaned and penurious childhood, she had had considerable practice in such discernment, and was able to smile pleasantly at Turtles as she placed the newly-filled plate at his feet, not to interrupt his gesticulations.

On the good side, she reflected, glancing into the cradle, the men’s conversation had lulled Oggy into a stupor. With a glance that caught Ian’s eye, and a nod toward the cradle, she went out to enjoy a mother’s rarest pleasure: ten minutes alone in the privy.

Emerging relaxed in body and mind, she was disinclined to go back into the cabin. She thought briefly of walking down to the Big House to visit Brianna and Claire—but Jenny had gone down herself when it became apparent that the Mohawks would spend the night at the Murrays’ cabin. Rachel was very fond of her mother-in-law, but then, she adored Oggy and loved Ian madly—and she really didn’t want the company of any of them just now.

The evening was cold, but not bitter, and she had a thick woolen shawl. A gibbous moon was rising amid a field of glorious stars, and the peace of Heaven seemed to breathe from the autumn forest, pungent with conifers and the softer scent of dying leaves. She made her way carefully up the path that led to the well, paused for a drink of cold water, and then went on, coming out a quarter-hour later on the edge of a rocky outcrop that gave a view of endless mountains and valleys, by day. By night, it was like sitting on the edge of eternity.

Peace seeped into her soul with the chill of the night, and she sought it, welcomed it. But there was still an unquiet part of her mind, and a burning in her heart, at odds with the vast quiet that surrounded her.

Ian would never lie to her. He’d said so, and she believed him. But she wasn’t fool enough to think that meant he told her everything she might want to know. And she very much wanted to know more about _Wakyo’tenyensnohnsa_, the Mohawk woman Ian had called Emily…and loved.

So now she was perhaps alive, perhaps not. If she did live…what might be her circumstances?

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder how old Emily might be, and what she looked like. Ian hadn’t ever said; she hadn’t ever asked. It hadn’t seemed important, but now…

Well. When she found him alone, she would ask, that’s all. And with determination, she turned her face to the moon and her heart to her inner light and prepared to wait.




Excerpt "CoonHunt"


‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎CoonHunt‬ ‪#‎NoItsNotFinished‬ ‪#‎NoDateNoTitle‬ ‪#‎AllThingsComeToThoseWhoWait‬

Before I could either gracefully accept his offer or kick him in the shin, an unearthly yodel sounded through the trees, and Bluebell shot down the hill in front of us, all four children in hot pursuit, likewise baying.
“What was that about raccoons, Sassenach?” Jamie squinted toward the distant tree under which the hound had taken up residence, her front feet on the trunk, pointing her muzzle up into the branches and letting out ear-piercing howls.
Rather to my surprise, it was a raccoon, fat, gray, immense, and extremely irascible at being roused before nightfall. It filled a jagged hollow, half-way up a lightning-struck pine, and was peering out in a belligerent way. I thought it was growling, but nothing could be heard over the wild cries of dog and children.
Jamie hushed all of them—except the dog—and eyed the coon with a hunter’s natural avidity. So, I noticed, did Jem. Germain and Fanny had drawn close together, looking up wide-eyed at the raccoon, and Mandy was wrapped tightly round my leg.
“I don’t want it to bite me!” she said, clutching my thigh. “Don’t let it bite me, Grand-da!”
“I won’t, _a nighean_. Dinna fash yourself.” Not taking his eyes off the treed raccoon, Jamie unslung the rifle from his back and reached for the shot-pouch on his belt.
“Can I do it, Grand-da? Please, can I shoot it?” Jem was itching to get his hands on the rifle, rubbing them up and down his breeches. Jamie glanced at him and smiled, but then his gaze shifted to Germain—or so I thought.
“Let Frances try, aye?” he said, and held out his hand to the startled girl. I rather expected her to recoil in horror, but after a moment’s hesitation, a glow rose in her cheeks and she stepped bravely forward.
“Show me how,” she said, sounding breathless. Her eyes flickered from gun to coon and back, as though fearing one or both would disappear.
Jamie normally carried his rifle loaded, but not always primed. He crouched on one knee and laid the gun along his thigh, handed her a half-filled cartridge and explained how to pour the powder into the pan. Jem and Germain watched jealously, occasionally butting in with know-it-all remarks like, “That’s the frizzen, Fanny,” or “You want to hold it up close to your shoulder so it won’t break your face when it goes off.” Jamie and Fanny both ignored these helpful interjections, and I towed Mandy off to a safe distance and sat down on a battered stump, putting her on my lap.
Bluebell and the raccoon had continued their vocal warfare, and the forest rang with howling and a sort of high-pitched angry squealing. Mandy had put her hands dramatically over her ears, but removed them to inquire whether I knew how to shoot a gun?
“Yes,” I said, avoiding any elaborations. I did technically know how, and had in fact discharged a firearm several times in my life. I’d found it deeply unnerving, though—the more so, after I’d been shot myself at the battle of Monmouth and understood the effects on a truly visceral level. I preferred stabbing, all things considered.
“Mam can shoot anything,” Mandy noted, frowning in disapproval at Fanny, who was now holding the wobbling weapon to her shoulder, looking simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Jamie crouched behind her, steadying the gun, his hand on hers, adjusting her grip and her sights, his voice a low rumble, barely audible under the racket.
“Go to your grannie,” he said to the boys, raising his voice. His eyes were fixed on the coon, which had fluffed itself to twice the normal size and was hurling insults at Bluebell, completely ignoring its audience. Jem and Germain reluctantly but obediently came to stand beside me, a safe distance away—or at least I hoped so. I repressed the urge to make them move farther away.
The gun went off with a sharp _bang_! that made Mandy scream. I didn’t, but it was a near thing. Bluey dropped to all fours and seized the raccoon, which had been knocked out of the tree by the shot. I couldn’t tell whether it was dead already, but she gave it a tremendous, neck-breaking shake, dropped the bloody carcass and let out a high, warbling _oo-hooo_! of triumph.
The boys scrambled forward, yelling and pounding Fanny excitedly on the back. Fanny herself was open-mouthed, stunned. Her face had gone pale, what could be seen of it behind a mottling of black powder smoke, and she kept looking from the gun in her hands to the dead raccoon, plainly unable to believe it.
“Well done, Frances.” Jamie patted her gently on the head and took the gun from her trembling hands. “Shall the lads gut and skin it for ye?”
“I…yeth. _Yes_. Please,” she added. She glanced at me, but instead of coming to sit down, walked unsteadily over to Bluey and fell to her knees in the leaves beside the dog.
“_Good_ dog,” she said, hugging the hound, who happily licked her face. I saw Jamie glance carefully at the dog as he stooped to pick up the blood-splotched carcass, but Bluey made no objection, merely woofling in her throat.



Excerpt 17 "Cousin Amaranthus"

Facebook Hashtags: #DailyLines, #BookNINE, #NOitisntdoneyet, #IllTellYouWhenItIs, #HauldYourWheesht, #CousinAmaranthus, #ShesBenjaminsWidow

Amaranthus_palmeri"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 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 16 "Inquiries"

#DailyLines #BookNine #NoItsNotFinished #Maybe2017 #MaybeNot #WhoKnows ? #Inquiries

William had been half-hoping that his inquiries for Lord John Grey would meet either with total ignorance, or with the news that his lordship had returned to England. No such luck, though. Sir Archibald Campbell’s clerk had been able to direct him at once to a house in Garden Street, and it was with thumping heart and a ball of lead in his stomach that he came down the steps of Campbell’s headquarters to meet Cinnamon, waiting in the street.

His anxiety was dispersed the next instant, though, as Sir Archibald himself came up the walk, two aides beside him. William’s impulse was to put his hat on, pull it over his face and scuttle past in hopes of being unrecognized. His pride, already raw, was having none of this, and instead, he marched straight down the walk, head high, and nodded regally to Sir Archibald as he passed.

“Good day to you, sir,” he said. Campbell, who had been saying something to one of the aides, looked up absently, then halted abruptly, stiffening.

“What the devil are you doing here?” he said, broad face darkening like a seared chop.

“My business, sir, is none of your concern,” William said politely, and made to pass.

“Coward,” Campbell said contemptuously behind him. “Coward and whore-monger. Get out of my sight before I have you arrested.”

William’s logical mind was telling him that it was Campbell’s relations with Uncle Hal that lay behind this insult and he ought not to take it personally. He must walk straight on as though he hadn’t heard.

He turned, gravel grinding under his heel, and only the fact that the expression on his face made Sir Archibald go white and leap backward allowed John Cinnamon time to take three huge strides and grab William’s arms from behind.

“[Come on, you idiot – French],” he hissed in William’s ear. “Vite!” Cinnamon outweighed William by forty pounds, and he got his way—though in fact, William didn’t fight him. He didn’t turn round, though, but backed—under Cinnamon’s compulsion—slowly toward the gate, burning eyes fixed on Campbell’s mottled countenance.

“What’s wrong with you, _gonze _?” Cinnamon inquired, once they were safely out the gate and out of sight of the clapboard mansion. The simple curiosity in his voice calmed William a little, and he wiped a hand hard down his face before replying.

“Sorry,” he said, and drew breath. “That—he—that man is responsible for the death of a—a young lady. That I knew.”

“_Merde_,” Cinnamon said, turning to glare back at the house. “Jane?”

“Wh—how—where did you get that name?” William demanded. The lead in his belly had caught fire and melted, leaving a seared hollow behind. He could still see her hands, long-fingered and white, as he’d laid them on her breast—crossed, the torn wrists neatly bound in black.

“You say it in your sleep sometimes,” Cinnamon said with an apologetic shrug.



Excerpt "Claire"

Roger raised his chin and I reached up carefully, fitting my fingers about his neck, just under his jaw. He’d just shaved; his skin was cool and slightly damp and I caught a whiff of the shaving soap Brianna made for him, scented with juniper berries. I was moved by the sense of ceremony in that small gesture--and moved much more by the hope in his eyes that he tried to hide.
“You know—“ I said hesitantly, and felt his Adam’s apple bob below my hand.

“I know,” he said gruffly. “No expectations. If something happens…well, it does. If not, I’m no worse off.”

I nodded, and felt gently about. I’d done that before, after his injury, tending the swelling and the rope-burn, now a ragged white scar. The tracheotomy I’d performed to save his life had left a smaller scar in the hollow of his throat, a slight depression about an inch long. I passed my thumb over that, feeling the healthy rings of cartilage above and below. The lightness of the touch made him shiver suddenly, tiny goosebumps stippling his neck, and he gave the breath of a laugh.
“Goose walking on my grave,” he said.
“Stamping about on your throat, more like,” I said, smiling. “Tell me again what Dr. MacEwan said.”

I hadn’t taken my hand away, and felt the lurch of his Adam’s apple as he cleared his throat hard.

“He prodded my throat—much as you’re doing,” he added, smiling back. “And he asked me if I knew what a hyoid bone was. He said—“ Roger’s hand rose involuntarily toward his throat, but stopped a few inches from touching it, “—that mine was an inch or so higher than usual, and that if it had been in the normal place, I’d be dead.”
“Really,” I said, interested. I put a thumb just under his jaw and said, “Swallow, please.”

He did, and I touched my own neck and swallowed, still touching his.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “It’s a small sample size, and granted, there may be differences attributable to gender—but he may well be right. Perhaps you’re a Neanderthal.”
“A what?” He stared at me.

“Just a joke,” I assured him. “But it’s true that one of the differences between the Neanderthals and modern humans is the hyoid. Most scientists think they hadn’t one at all, and therefore couldn’t speak, but my Uncle Lamb said--you rather need one for coherent speech” I added, seeing his blank look. “It anchors the tongue.”
“How extremely fascinating,” Roger said politely.
I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.
“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside. This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to HELL!”

Roger leapt to his feet and thrust aside the makeshift gauze screen that covered the window.

“Amanda!” he bellowed. “Come in here right now!” Over his shoulder, I saw Amanda, face contorted with rage, trying to grab her doll, Esmeralda, which Germain was dangling by one arm, just above her head, dancing to keep away from Amanda’s concerted attempts to kick him.

Startled, Germain looked up, and Amanda connected full-force with his shin. She was wearing the stout half-boots Jamie had bought for her from the cobbler in Salem, and the crack of impact was clearly audible, though instantly superceded by Germain’s cry of pain. Jemmy, looking appalled, grabbed Esmeralda, thrust her into Amanda’s arms, and with a guilty glance over his shoulder, ran for the woods, followed by a hobbling Germain.

“Jeremiah!” Roger roared. “Stop right there!” Jem froze as though hit by a death-ray; Germain didn’t, and vanished with a wild rustling into the shrubbery.

I’d been watching the boys, but a faint choking noise made me glance sharply at Roger. He’d gone pale, and was clutching his throat with both hands. I seized his arm.
“Are you all right?”

“I…don’t know.” He spoke in a rasping whisper, but gave me the shadow of a pained smile. “Think I—might have sprained something.”
“Daddy?” said a small voice from the doorway. Amanda sniffled dramatically, wiping tears and snot all over her face. “Is you mad at me, Daddy?”

Roger took an immense breath, coughed, and went over, squatting down to take her in his arms.

“No, sweetheart,” he said softly—but in a fairly normal voice, and something clenched inside me began to relax. “I’m not mad. You mustn’t tell people they’re going to hell, though. Come here, let’s wash your face.” He stood up, holding her, and turned toward my mixing table, where there was a basin and ewer.
“I’ll do it,” I said, reaching out for Mandy. “Maybe you want to go and…er…talk to Jem?”

“Mmphm,” he said, and handed her across. A natural snuggler, Mandy at once clung affectionately to my neck and wrapped her legs around my middle.
“Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?” she asked. “Dose bad boys got her dirty!”

I listened with half an ear to Mandy’s mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before—it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were—but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.
“Wassat, Grannie?” Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

“What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash.” I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion…no fever, though…perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

“No, _dat_.” Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. “Issa letter!” She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. “Letter J!” she announced triumphantly. “J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy,” she added, frowning.

“Er…” I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter “J.” The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart—years of heartbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

“It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie,” I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.
“Mandy,” I said, on impulse. “What color is my hair?”

“_When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power_.” An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.
Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, “Brindle.”
“What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?”

“Grand-da. He said it’s what color Charlie is.” Charlie was a rather stylish pig belonging to the Beardsley household.
“Hmm,” I said. “Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry.”



Excerpt 15 "Technicalities"

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“What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?”
Uncle Hal looked at William with an affectionate impatience.

“I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done.”
“But you—” William stopped, baffled.

“No, I didn’t,” his uncle said dryly. “If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I could do is stop using the title of “Duke,” and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that,” he added off-handedly.

“Really?” William asked cynically, glancing at his uncle. “Who did you maim?”
He actually had supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

“Oh…several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?”

“Yes,” his uncle said briefly. “But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg.”

“Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?”
“Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise…but that’s beside the point.”



Excerpt 14 "Expedition" 

Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…

They were heading northwest. Roger had learned to steer by sun and stars, when he’d surveyed the boundary lines of Jamie’s land, years before, but it wasn’t a skill he’d needed much in Scotland. He thought they were near the edge of the land grant now; he thought he recalled this rocky outcropping. Granted, there were thousands of similar rock formations in western North Carolina, but something about this one rang a mental bell.

"It smells like grapes," Jemmy said, sniffing deep. "Smell ‘em, Dad?"

"Aye, I do." That was it; the whole hillside was a tumble of pale, huge boulders, unusual among the dark rock of the nearby ground—but more unusual for the vast tangle of wild grapevines that crawled over the boulders and climbed the sparse trees that sprouted among them. The grapes had long since ripened and gone, most of them scavenged by birds, insects, wolves, bears and anything else with a sweet tooth. Still, the faint perfume of raisins lay like a veil on the air and the bitter tang of the drying vines was sharp beneath it.

Jamie had pulled loose a length of the tough, woody vine, and was engaged in chopping it into several gnarled sticks, each about three feet long. He handed one to Jem and another to Roger, with the terse adjuration, "Snakes.


Excerpt 13 "Carpe Diem"

Carpe Diem”
Facebook Hash Tags: #DailyLines #BookNine #‎NOItsNotOut #‎ItllBeALongTime #DinnaFashAboutIt #CarpeDiem

Manoke was his father’s friend; Lord John had never called him anything else. The Indian came and went as he pleased, generally without notice, though he was at Mt. Josiah more often than not. He wasn’t a servant or a hired man, but he did the cooking and washing-up when he was there, kept the chickens—yes, there were still chickens; William could hear them clucking and rustling as they settled in the trees near the house—and helped when there was game to be cleaned and butchered.

"Your hog?" William asked Cinnamon, with a brief jerk of the head toward the muffled firepit. They’d chosen to take their supper on the crumbling porch, enjoying the soft evening air, and keeping an eye on the drying meat, in case of marauding raccoons.

"Oui. Up there," Cinnamon said, waving a big hand toward the north. "Two hours walk. A few pigs in the wood there, not many."

William nodded. "Do you have a horse?" he asked. It was a fairly small hog, maybe sixty pounds, but heavy to carry for two hours"especially as Cinnamon presumably hadn’t known how far he’d have to go. He’d already told William that he’d never visited Mt. Josiah before.

Cinnamon nodded, his mouth full, and jerked his chin in the direction of the ramshackle tobacco barn. William wondered how long Manoke had been in residence; the place looked as though it had been deserted for years—and yet there were chickens…

The clucking and brief squawks of the settling birds reminded him suddenly and sharply of Rachel Hunter, and in the next breath, he found the scent of rain, wet chickens—and wet girl.

"…the one my brother calls the Great Whore of Babylon. No chicken possesses anything resembling intelligence, but that one is perverse beyond the usual."

"Perverse?" Evidently she perceived that he was contemplating the possibilities inherent in this description, and finding them entertaining, for she snorted through her nose and bent to open the blanket chest.

"The creature is sitting twenty feet up in a pine tree, in the midst of a rainstorm. Perverse." She pulled out a linen towel, and began to dry her hair with it.

The sound of the rain altered suddenly, hail rattling like tossed gravel against the shutters.

"Hmph," said Rachel, with a dark look at the window. "I expect she will be knocked senseless by the hail and devoured by the first passing fox, and serve her right." She flapped the folded towel open and began to dry her hair with it. "No great matter. I shall be pleased never to see any of those chickens again."

The scent of Rachel’s wet hair was strong in his memory, and the sight of it, dark and straggling in tails down her back, the wet making her worn shift transparent in spots, with shadows of her soft pale skin beneath.

"What? I mean—I beg your pardon?" Manoke had said something to him, and the smell of rain vanished, replaced by hickory smoke, fried cornmeal and fish.

Manoke gave him an amused look, but obligingly repeated himself.

"I said, have you come to stay? Because if so, maybe you want to fix the chimney."

William glanced over his shoulder; the vine-shrouded rubble was just visible, past the edge of the porch.

"I don’t know," he said, shrugging. Manoke nodded and went back to his conversation with Cinnamon; the two of them were speaking French. William couldn’t make the effort to listen, suddenly overcome by a tiredness that sank to the marrow of his bones.

Would he stay? He didn’t know what he’d intended by coming here; it was just the only place he could think of to go where he wouldn’t be obliged to make explanations.

He’d had some vague notion of thinking. Making sense of things, deciding what to do. Rising up and taking action then, to make things right.

"Right," he said under his breath. "Hell and death." Nothing could be made right. An overlooked fish-bone caught in his throat and he choked, coughed, choked again.

Manoke looked briefly at him, but William waved a hand and the Indian returned to his intense conversation with John Cinnamon. William got up and went, coughing, round the corner of the house to the well.

The water was sweet and cold, and with a little effort, he dislodged the bone and drank, then poured water over his head. As he sluiced the dirt from his face, he felt a gradual sense of calm come over him. Not peace, not even resignation, but a realization that if everything couldn’t be settled right now…perhaps it didn’t need to be. He wouldn’t be twenty-one until January. The estate was still administered by factors and lawyers; all those tenants and farms were still someone else’s responsibility.

He would stay, he thought, wiping a hand over his wet face. Not think. Not struggle. Just be still for a little while.

It was deep twilight now; one of his favorite times of day here. The forest settled with the dying of the light, but the air rose, shedding the burden of the day’s heat, passing cool as a spirit through the murmuring leaves, touching his own hot skin with its peace.



Excerpt 12 "Moonlight and Howling"

Moonlight and Howling”
This excerpt DOES contain spoilers from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER series. You have been warned!

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I was somewhere deeper than dreams, and came to the surface like a fish hauled out of water, thrashing and flapping.

"Whug—" I couldn’t remember where I was, who I was, or how to speak. Then the noise that had roused me came again, and every hair on my body stood on end.
"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" Words and sense came back in a rush and I flung out both hands, groping for some physical anchor.

Sheets. Mattress. Bed. I was in bed. But no Jamie, empty space beside me. I blinked like an owl, turning my head in search of him. He was standing naked at the window, bathed in moonlight. His fists were clenched and every muscle visible under his skin.

"Jamie!" He didn’t turn, or seem to hear—either my voice, or the thump and agitation of other people in the house, also roused by the howling outside. I could hear Mandy starting to wail in fear, and her parents’ voices running into each other in the rush to comfort her.

I got out of bed, and came up cautiously beside Jamie, though what I really wanted to do was dive under the covers and pull the pillow over my head. That noise… I peered past his shoulder, but bright as the moonlight was, it showed nothing in the clearing before the house that shouldn’t be there. Coming from the wood, maybe; trees and mountain were an impenetrable slab of black.

"Jamie," I said, more calmly, and wrapped a hand firmly round his forearm. "What is it, do you think? Wolves? A wolf, I mean?" I hoped there was only one of whatever was making that sound.

He started at the touch, swung round to see me and shook his head hard, trying to shake off…something.

"I—" he began, voice hoarse with sleep, and then he simply put his arms around me and drew me against him. "I thought it was a dream." I could feel him trembling a little, and held him as hard as I could. Sinister Celtic words like "ban-sidhe" and "tannasq" were fluttering round my head, whispering in my ear. Custom said that a ban-sidhe howled on the roof when someone in the house was about to die. Well…it wasn’t on the bloody roof, at least…

"Are your dreams usually that loud?" I asked, wincing at a fresh ululation. He hadn’t been out of bed long; his skin was cool, but not chilled.

"Aye. Sometimes." He gave a small, breathless laugh, and let go of me. A thunder of small feet came down the hallway, and I hastily flung myself back into his arms as the door burst open and Jem rushed in, Fanny right behind him.

"Grand-da! There’s a wolf outside! It’ll eat the piggies!"

Fanny gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth, eyes round with horror. Not at thought of the piglets’ imminent demise, but at the realization that Jamie was naked. I was shielding as much of him from view as I could with my nightgown, but there wasn’t a great deal of nightgown and there was a great deal of Jamie.

"Go back to bed, sweetheart," I said, as calmly as possible. "If it’s a wolf, Mr. Fraser will deal with it."

"Moran taing, Sassenach," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. Thanks a lot. "Jem, throw me my plaid, aye?"
Jem, to whom a naked grandfather was a routine sight, fetched the plaid from its hook by the door.
"Can I come and help kill the wolf?" he asked hopefully. "I could shoot it. I’m better than Da, he says so!"

"It’s no a wolf," Jamie said briefly, swathing his loins in faded tartan. "The two of ye go and tell Mandy it’s all right, before she brings the roof down about our ears." The howling had grown louder, and so had Mandy’s, in hysterical response. From the look on her face, Fanny was all set to join them.



Excerpt 11 - "Mount Joshua"

William carried his pistol loaded, but not primed in case of accident. He took an instant to prime it now, thrusting it back into its holster before walking around the corner of the house.

It was Indians—or one, at least. A half-naked man squatted in the shade of a huge beech tree, tending a small firepit covered with damp burlap; William could smell the sharp scent of fresh-cut hickory logs, mingled with the tang of blood and char. The Indian—he looked young, though large and very muscular—had his back to William and was deftly stripping the carcass of a small hog, slicing off ragged strips of meat and tossing them into a pile on a flattened burlap sack that lay beside the fire.

"Hallo, there," William said, raising his voice. The man looked round, blinking against the smoke and waving it out of his face. He rose slowly, the knife he’d been using still in his hand, but William had spoken pleasantly enough, and the stranger wasn’t menacing. He also wasn’t a stranger. He stepped out of the tree’s shadow, the sunlight hit his hair, and William felt a jolt of astonished recognition.

So did the young man, by the look on his face.

"Lieutenant?" he said, disbelieving. He looked William quickly up and down, registering the lack of uniform, and his big dark eyes fixed on William’s face. "Lieutenant…Lord Ellesmere?"

"I used to be. Mr. Cinnamon, isn’t it?" He couldn’t help smiling as he spoke the name, and the other’s mouth twisted wryly in acknowledgement. The young man’s hair was no more than an inch long, but only shaving it off entirely would have disguised either its distinctive deep reddish-brown color or its exuberant curliness. A mission orphan, he owed his name to it.

"John Cinnamon, yes. Your servant…sir." The erstwhile scout gave him a presentable half-bow, though the "sir" was spoken with something of a question.

"William Ransom. Yours, sir," William said, smiling, and thrust out his hand. John Cinnamon was a couple of inches shorter than himself, and a couple of inches broader; the scout had grown into himself in the last two years and possessed a very solid hand-shake.

"I trust you’ll pardon my curiosity, Mr. Cinnamon—but how the devil do you come to be here?" William asked, letting go. He’d last seen John Cinnamon two years before, in Canada, where he’d spent much of a long, cold winter hunting and trapping in company with the half-Indian scout, who was near his own age.

He wondered briefly if Cinnamon had come in search of him, but that was absurd. He didn’t think he’d ever mentioned Mount Josiah to the man—and even if he had, Cinnamon couldn’t possibly have expected to find him here.

"Ah." To William’s surprise, a slow flush washed Cinnamon’s broad cheekbones. "I—er—I…well, I’m on my way south." The flush grew deeper.

William cocked an eyebrow. While it was true that Virginia was south of Quebec and that there was a good deal of country souther still, Mount Josiah wasn’t on the way to anywhere. No roads led here. He had himself come upriver on a barge, then obtained a small canoe in Richmond and paddled on above the Breaks, that stretch of falls and turbulent water where the land suddenly collapsed upon itself. He’d seen perhaps three people during his time above the Breaks—all of them headed the other way.

Suddenly, though, Cinnamon’s wide shoulders relaxed and the look of wariness was erased by relief.

"In fact, I came to see my friend," he said, and nodded toward the house. William turned quickly, to see another Indian picking his way through the raspberry brambles littering what used to be a small croquet lawn.

"Manoke!" he said. Then shouted "Manoke!", making the older man look up. The older Indian’s face lighted with joy, and a sudden uncomplicated happiness washed through William’s heart, cleansing as spring rain.

The Indian was lithe and spare as he’d always been, his face a little more lined. His hair smelt of woodsmoke when William embraced him, and the gray in it was the same soft color, but it was still thick and coarse as ever—he could see that easily; he was looking down on it from above, Manoke’s cheek pressed into his shoulder.

"What did you say?" he asked, releasing Manoke.

"I said, ‘My, how you have grown, boy,’" Manoke said, grinning up at him. "Do you need food?"




Excerpt 10 - "Jamie and Roger"

NB from Herself: "There is a major spoiler for Book 8 (MOBY) in here, in case you haven’t read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD yet.)"

 The fly spiraled down, green and yellow as a falling leaf, to land among the rings of the rising hatch. It floated for a second on the surface, maybe two, then vanished in a tiny splash, yanked out of sight by voracious jaws. Roger flicked the end of his rod sharply to set the hook, but there was no need. The trout were hungry this evening, striking at everything, and his fish had taken the hook so deep that bringing it in needed nothing but brute force.
It came up fighting, though, flapping and silver in the last of the light. He could feel its life through the line, fierce and bright, so much bigger than the fish itself, and his heart rose to meet it.

"Who taught ye to cast, Roger Mac?" His father-in-law took the trout as it came ashore, still flapping, and clubbed it neatly on a stone. "That was as pretty a touch as ever I’ve seen."

Roger made a modest gesture of dismissal, but flushed a little with pleasure at the compliment; Jamie didn’t say such things lightly.

"My father," he said.

"Aye?" Jamie looked startled, and Roger hastened to correct himself.

"The Reverend, I mean. He was really my great-uncle, and by marriage at that."

"Still your father," Jamie said, but smiled. He glanced toward the far side of the pool where Germain and Jemmy were squabbling over who’d caught the biggest fish. They had a respectable string, but hadn’t thought to keep their catches separate, so couldn’t tell who’d caught what.

"Ye dinna think it makes a difference, do ye? That Jem’s mine by blood and Germain by love?"

"You know I don’t." Roger smiled himself at sight of the two boys. Germain was two years older than Jem, but slightly built, like both his parents. Jem had the long bones and wide shoulders of his grandfather—and his father, Roger thought, straightening his own shoulders. The two boys were much of a height, and the hair of both glowed red at the moment, the ruddy light of the sinking sun setting fire to Germain’s blond mop. "Where’s Fanny, come to think? She’d settle them."

Frances was twelve, but sometimes seemed much younger—and often startlingly older. She’d been fast friends with Germain when Jem had arrived on the Ridge, and rather stand-offish, fearing that Jem would come between her and her only friend. But Jem was an open, sweet-tempered lad, and Germain knew a good deal more about how people worked than did the average eleven-year-old ex-pickpocket, and shortly the three of them were to be seen everywhere together, giggling as they slithered through the shrubbery, intent on some mysterious errand, or turning up at the end of churning, too late to help with the work, but just in time for a glass of fresh buttermilk.

"Ach, the poor wee lassie started her courses last night." Jamie lifted a shoulder in an economical shrug that conveyed acknowledgement of the situation, regret, and resignation. "She’s no feeling just that well in herself."

Roger nodded, threading the stringer through the fish’s dark-red gill slit. He knew what Jamie meant. Jem’s arrival hadn’t stopped Fanny’s friendship with Germain—but this might. Or alter it irrevocably, which would likely come to the same thing, so far as Fanny was concerned.

There was nothing to be done about it, though, and neither man said more.

The sun came low through the trees, but the trout were still biting, the water dappling with dozens of bright rings and the frequent splash of a leaping fish. Roger’s fingers tightened for a moment on his rod, tempted—but they had enough for supper and next morning’s breakfast, too. No point in catching more; there were a dozen casks of smoked and salted fish already put away in the cold-cellar, and the light was going.

Jamie showed no signs of moving, though. He was sitting on a comfortable stump, bare-legged and clad in nothing but his shirt, his old hunting plaid puddled on the ground behind; it had been a warm day for (September, October?) and the balm of it still lingered in the air. He glanced at the boys, who had forgotten their argument and were back at their poles, intent as a pair of kingfishers.

Jamie turned to Roger then, and said, in a quite ordinary tone of voice, "Do Presbyterians have the sacrament of Confession, mac mo chinnidh?"

Roger said nothing for a moment, taken aback both by the question and its immediate implications, and by Jamie’s addressing him as "son of my house"—a thing he’d done exactly once, at the calling of the clans at Mt. Helicon some years before.

The question itself was straight-forward, though, and he answered it that way.

"No. Catholics have seven sacraments but Presbyterians only recognize two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper." He might have left it at that, but the first implication of the question was plain before him.

"D’ye have a thing ye want to tell me, Jamie?" He thought it might be the second time he’d called his father-in-law ‘Jamie’ to his face. "I can’t give ye absolution—but I can listen."

He wouldn’t have said that Jamie’s face showed anything in the way of strain. But now it relaxed and the difference was sufficiently visible that his own heart opened to the man, ready for whatever he might say. Or so he thought.

"Aye." Jamie’s voice was husky and he cleared his throat, ducking his head, a little shy. "Aye, that’ll do fine. D’ye remember the night we took Claire back from the bandits?"

"I’m no likely to forget it," Roger said, staring at him. He cut his eyes at the boys, but they were still at it, and he looked back at Jamie. "Why?" he asked, wary.

"Were ye there wi’ me, at the last, when I broke Hodgepile’s neck and Ian asked me what to do with the rest? I said, ‘Kill them all.’"

"I was there." He had been. And he didn’t want to go back. Three words and it was all there, just below the surface of memory, still cold in his bones: black night in the forest, a sear of fire across his eyes, chilling wind and the smell of blood. The drums—a bodhran thundering against his arm, two more behind him. Screaming in the dark. The sudden shine of eyes and the stomach-clenching feel of a skull caving in.

"I killed one of them," he said abruptly. "Did you know that?"


Jamie hadn’t looked away and didn’t now; his mouth compressed for a moment, and he nodded.

"I didna see ye do it," he said. "But it was plain enough in your face, next day."

"I don’t wonder." Roger’s throat was tight and the words came out thick and gruff. He was surprised that Jamie had noticed—had noticed anything at all on that day other than Claire, once the fighting was over. The image of her, kneeling by a creek, setting her own broken nose by her reflection in the water, the blood streaking down over her bruised and naked body, came back to him with the force of a punch in the solar plexus.

"Ye never ken how it will be." Jamie lifted one shoulder and let it fall; he’d lost the lace that bound his hair, snagged by a tree branch, and the thick red strands stirred in the evening breeze. "A fight like that, I mean. What ye recall and what ye don’t. I remember everything about that night, though—and the day beyond it."

Roger nodded, but didn’t speak. It was true that Presbyterians had no sacrament of Confession—and he rather regretted that they didn’t; it was a useful thing to have in your pocket. Particularly, he supposed, if you led the sort of life Jamie had. But any minister knows the soul’s need to speak and be understood, and that he could give.

"I expect ye do," he said. "Do ye regret it, then? Telling the men to kill them all, I mean."

"Not for an instant." Jamie gave him a brief, fierce glance. "Do ye regret your part of it?"

"I—" Roger stopped abruptly. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t thought about it, but… "I regret that I had to," he said carefully. "Very much. But I’m sure in my own mind that I did have to."

Jamie’s breath came out in a sigh.

"Ye’ll know Claire was raped, I expect." It wasn’t a question, but Roger nodded. Claire hadn’t spoken of it, even to Brianna—but she hadn’t had to.

"The man who did it wasna killed, that night. She saw him alive last month, at Beardsley’s."

The evening breeze had turned chilly, but that wasn’t what raised the hairs on Roger’s forearms. Jamie was a man of precise speech—and he’d started this conversation with the word "confession." Roger took his time about replying.

"I’m thinking that ye’re not asking my opinion of what ye should do about it."

Jamie sat silent for a moment, dark against the blazing sky.

"No," he said softly. "I’m not."

"Grand-da! Look!" Jem and Germain were scrambling over the rocks and brush, each with a string of shimmering trout, dripping dark streaks of blood and water down the boys’ breeks, the swaying fish gleaming bronze and silver in the last of the evening light.

Roger turned back from the boys in time to see the flicker of Jamie’s eye as he glanced round at the boys, the sudden light on his face catching a troubled, inward look that vanished in an instant as he smiled and raised a hand to his grandsons, reaching out to admire their catch.
Jesus Christ, Roger thought. He felt as though an electric wire had run through his chest for an instant, small and sizzling. He was wondering if they were old enough yet. To know about things like this.

"We decided we got six each," Jemmy was explaining, proudly holding up his string and turning it so his father and grandfather could appreciate the size and beauty of his catch.
"And these are Fanny’s," Germain said, lifting a smaller string on which three plump trout dangled. "We decided she’d ha’ caught some, if she was here."

"That was a kind thought, lads," Jamie said, smiling. "I’m sure the lassie will appreciate it."
"Mmphm," said Germain, though he frowned a little. "Will she still be able to come fishin’ with us, Grand-pere? Mrs. Wilson said she wouldn’t, now she’s a woman."

Jemmy made a disgusted noise and elbowed Germain. "Dinna be daft," he said. "My mam’s a woman and she goes fishin’. She hunts, too, aye?"

Germain nodded, but looked unconvinced.

"Aye, she does," he admitted. "Mr. Crombie doesna like it, though, and neither does Heron."
"Heron?" Roger said, surprised. Hiram Crombie was under the impression that women should cook, clean, spin, sew, mind children, feed stock and keep quiet save when praying. But Standing Heron Bradshaw was a Cherokee who’d married one of the Moravian girls from Salem, and settled on the other side of the Ridge. "Why? The Cherokee women plant their own crops and I’m sure I’ve seen them catching fish with nets and fish-traps by the fields."

"Heron didna say about catching fish," Jem explained. "He says women canna hunt, though, because they stink o’ blood, and it drives the game away."

"Well, that’s true," Jamie said, to Roger’s surprise. "But only when they’ve got their courses. And even so, if she stays downwind…"

"Would a woman who smells o’ blood not draw bears or painters?" Germain asked. He looked a little worried at the thought.

"Probably not," Roger said dryly, hoping he was right. "And if I were you, I wouldn’t suggest any such thing to your Auntie. She might take it amiss."

Jamie made a small, amused sound and shooed the boys.

"Get on wi’ ye, lads. We’ve a few things yet to talk of. Tell your grannie we’ll be in time for supper, aye?"

They waited, watching ’til the boys were safely out of hearing. The breeze had died away now and the last slow rings on the water spread and flattened, disappearing into the gathering shadows. Tiny flies began to fill the air, survivors of the hatch.

"Ye did it, then?" Roger asked. He was wary of the answer; what if it wasn’t done, and Jamie wished his help in the matter?

But Jamie nodded, his broad shoulders relaxing.

"Claire didna tell me about it, ken. I saw at once that something was troubling her, o’ course…" A thread of rueful amusement tinged his voice; Claire’s glass face was famous. 

"But when I told her so, she asked me to let it bide, and give her time to think."

"Did you?"

"No." The amusement had gone. "I saw it was a serious thing. I asked my sister; she told me. She was wi’ Claire at Beardsley’s, aye? She saw the fellow, too, and wormed it out of Claire what the matter was.

"Claire said to me—when I made it clear I kent what was going on—that it was all right; she was trying to forgive the bastard. And thought she was makin’ progress with it. Mostly." 

Jamie’s voice was matter-of-fact, but Roger thought he heard an edge of regret in it.

"Do you…feel that you should have let her deal with it? It is a—a process, to forgive. Not a single act, I mean." He felt remarkably awkward, and coughed to clear his throat.

"I ken that," Jamie said, in a voice dry as sand. "Few men ken it better."

A hot flush of embarrassment burned its way up Roger’s chest and into his neck. He could feel it take him by the throat, and couldn’t speak at all for a moment.

"Aye," Jamie said, after a moment. "Aye, it’s a point. But I think it’s maybe easier to forgive a dead man than one who’s walkin’ about under your nose. And come to that, I thought she’d have an easier time forgiving me than him." He lifted one shoulder and let it fall. "And…whether she could bear the thought of the man living near us or not—I couldn’t."

Roger made a small sound of acknowledgment; there seemed nothing else useful to say.

Jamie didn’t move, or speak. He sat with his head slightly turned away, looking out over the water, where a fugitive light glimmered over the breeze-touched surface.

"It was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done," he said at last, very quietly.

"Morally, do you mean?" Roger asked, his own voice carefully neutral. Jamie’s head turned toward him, and Roger caught a blue flash of surprise as the last of the sun touched the side of his face.

"Och, no," his father-in-law said at once. "Only hard to do."

"Aye." Roger let the silence settle again, waiting. He could feel Jamie thinking, though the man didn’t move. Did he need to tell it to someone, re-live it and thus ease his soul by full confession? He felt in himself a terrible curiosity, and at the same time, a desperate wish not to hear. He drew breath and spoke abruptly.

"I told Brianna. That I’d killed Boble—and how. Maybe I shouldn’t have."

Jamie’s face was completely in shadow, but Roger could feel those blue eyes on his own face, fully lit by the setting sun. With an effort, he didn’t look down.

"Aye?" Jamie said, his voice calm, but definitely curious. "What did she say to ye? If ye dinna mind telling me, I mean."

"I—well. To tell the truth, the only thing I remember for sure is that she said, ‘I love you.’" 

That was the only thing he’d heard, through the echo of drums and the drumming of his own pulse in his ears. He’d told her kneeling, his head in her lap. She’d kept on saying it then; "I love you," her arms wrapping his shoulders, sheltering him with the fall of her hair, absolving him with her tears.

For a moment, he was back inside that memory, and came to himself with a start, realizing that Jamie had said something.

"What did you say?"

"I said—and how is it Presbyterians dinna think marriage is a sacrament?"



Excerpt 9 - "Brindle"

"Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?" Mandy asked. "Dose bad boys got her dirty!"

I listened with half an ear to her mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before— it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were— but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.

"Wassat, Grannie?" Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

"What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash." I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion… no fever, though… perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

"No, dat." Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. "Issa letter!" She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. "Letter J!" she announced triumphantly. "J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy," she added, frowning.

"Er…" I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter "J." The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart— years of hearbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

"It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie," I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.

"Mandy," I said, on impulse. "What color is my hair?"

"When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power." An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.

Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, "Brindle."

"What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?"

"Grand-da. He sayss it’s what color Charlie is." Charlie was a rather stylishly multi-colored pig belonging to the Beardsley household.


"Hmm," I said. "Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry."


Excerpt 8 - "Jamie and Jenny"

"God, I miss the old bugger," Jamie said impulsively. Jenny glanced at him and smiled ruefully.


"So do I. I wonder sometimes if he’s with them now— mam and da."

That notion startled Jamie — he’d never thought of it — and he laughed, shaking his head. "Well, if he is, I suppose he’s happy."

"I hope that’s the way of it," Jenny said, growing serious. "I always wished he could ha’ been buried with them, at Lallybroch."

Jamie nodded, his throat suddenly tight. Murtagh lay with the fallen of Culloden, buried in some anonymous pit on that silent moor, his bones mingled with the others. No cairn for those who loved him to come and leave a stone to say so.

Jenny laid a hand on his arm, warm through the cloth of his sleeve.

"Dinna mind it, a brathair," she said softly. "He had a good death, and you with him at the end."

"How would you know it was a good death?" Emotion made him speak more roughly than he meant, but she only blinked once, and then her face settled again.

"Ye told me, idiot," she said dryly. "Several times. D’ye not recall that?"

He stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending.

"I told ye? How? I dinna ken what happened."

Now it was her turn to be surprised.

"Ye’ve forgotten?" She frowned at him. "Aye, well… it’s true ye were off your heid wi’ fever for a good ten days when they brought ye home. Ian and I took it in turn to sit with ye— as much to stop the doctor takin’ your leg off as anything else. Ye can thank Ian ye’ve still got that one," she added, nodding sharply at his left leg. "He sent the doctor away; said he kent well ye’d rather be dead." Her eyes filled abruptly with tears, and she turned away.

He caught her by the shoulder and felt her bones, fine and light as a kestrel’s under the cloth of her shawl.

"Jenny," he said softly. "He didna want to be dead. Believe me. I did, aye… but not him."

"No, he did at first," she said, and swallowed. "But ye wouldna let him, he said— and he wouldna let you, either." She wiped her face with the back of her hand, roughly. He took hold of it, and kissed it, her fingers cold in his hand.


"Ye dinna think ye had anything to do with it?" he asked, straightening up and smiling down at her. "For either of us?"


Excerpt 7 - "You Came Back"

"Ye healed me of something a good deal worse, Sassenach," he said, and touched my hand gently. He’d touched me with his right hand, the maimed one.

"I didn’t," I protested. "You did that yourself—you had to. All I did was…er…"

"Drug me wi’ opium and fornicate me back to life? Aye, that."

"It wasn’t fornication," I said, rather primly—but I turned my hand and laced my fingers tightly with his. "We were married."

"Aye, it was," he said, and his mouth tightened, as well as his grip. "It wasna you I was swiving, and ye ken that as well as I do."

I swallowed, watching the fire-shadows move on the rough-hewn wall and recalling all too vividly the coldness of hard stone against my back and the fire-shot, fractured images that had splintered in my mind as his hands had closed around my neck. I cleared my throat by reflex.


"It was me at the end," I said softly, and touched his face with my free hand. "You came back— to me."



Excerpt 6 - "In The Dreamtime"

I was having the delightful sort of dream where you realize that you’re asleep and are enjoying it extremely. I was warm, bonelessly relaxed, and my mind was an exquisite blank. I was just beginning to sink down through this cloudy layer of bliss to the deeper realms of unconsciousness when a violent movement of the mattress under me jerked me into instant alertness.

By reflex, I rolled onto my side and reached for Jamie. I hadn’t reached the stage of conscious thought yet, but my synapses had already drawn their own conclusions. He was still in bed, so we weren’t under attack and the house wasn’t afire. I heard nothing but his rapid breathing; the children were all right and no one had broken in. Ergo…it was his own dream that had wakened him.

This thought penetrated into the conscious part of my mind just as my hand touched his shoulder. He drew back, but not with the violent recoil he usually showed if I touched him too suddenly after a bad dream. He was awake, then; he knew it was me. Thank God for that, I thought, and drew a deep breath of my own.

"Jamie?" I said softly. My eyes were dark-adapted already; I could see him, half-curled beside me, tense, facing me.

"Dinna touch me, Sassenach," he said, just as softly. "Not yet. Let it pass." He’d gone to bed in a night-shirt; the room was still chilly. But he was naked now. When had he taken it off? And why?



Excerpt 5 - "Fishing"

"Who taught ye to cast, Roger Mac?" His father-in-law took the trout as it came ashore, still flapping, and clubbed it neatly on a stone. "That was as pretty a touch as ever I’ve seen."
Roger made a modest gesture of dismissal, but flushed a little with pleasure at the compliment; Jamie didn’t say such things lightly.

"My father," he said.

"Aye?" Jamie looked startled, and Roger hastened to correct himself.

"The Reverend, I mean. He was really my great-uncle, and by marriage at that."

"Still your father," Jamie said, but smiled. He glanced toward the far side of the pool where Germain and Jemmy were squabbling over who’d caught the biggest fish. They had a respectable string, but hadn’t thought to keep their catches separate, so couldn’t tell who’d caught what.

"Ye dinna think it makes a difference, do ye? That Jem’s mine by blood and Germain by love?"

"You know I don’t." Roger smiled himself at sight of the two boys. Germain was two years older than Jem, but slightly built, like both his parents. Jem had the long bones and wide shoulders of his grandfather—and his father, Roger thought, straightening his own shoulders. The two boys were much of a height, and the hair of both glowed red at the moment, the ruddy light of the sinking sun setting fire to Germain’s blond mop. "Where’s Fanny, come to think? She’d settle them."


Excerpt 4 – "Mantalk"

"How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?" Roger asked abruptly.

"Eight," Jamie replied without hesitation. "In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it."

Jamie stopped quite suddenly and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

"Look," Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

"It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?" Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. "It’s them, as well. All of them." His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

All of them.

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

"Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel." The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

"Aye," he said. "Sheep would be easier."


(This excerpt from Book Nine was originally posted by Diana as one of her "Daily Lines" on January 2, 2015, on her Facebook page).


Excerpt 3 – "Fanny"

Note from Diana Gabaldon that appeared at the beginning of this excerpt:

Posted on March 6, 2015:

March 6th, 1988 is the day I began to write what would eventually become OUTLANDER. I meant to write a practice book, in order to learn how to write a novel. Once I knew how it all worked, I thought, I could write a real novel; one I meant to be published. But I didn’t mean to tell anyone what I was doing, let alone show it to anybody.

Things Happen, though, and here we all are, twenty-seven years and fourteen books and a lovely TV show later. Apparently I was right, when I thought (at the age of 8) that I was supposed to be a novelist. And so in celebration, here’s a much larger-than-usual chunk of Book 9 excerpts. Hope you enjoy them!

-Diana

________________________

In which, Fanny has just started her first menstrual period, and is more upset than might usually be the case, since to her, it’s the signal that she’s just become a marketable sexual commodity.

"Sweetheart," I said, more gently, and put a hand under her chin to lift her face. Her eyes met mine like a blow, their soft brown nearly black with fear. Her chin was rigid, her jaw set tight, and I took my hand away.

"You don’t really think that we intend you to be a whore, Fanny?" She heard the incredulousness in my voice, and blinked. Once. Then looked down again.

"I’m…not good for anything else," she said, in a small voice. "But I’m worth a lot of money—for…that." She waved a hand over her lap, in a quick, almost resentful gesture.

I felt as though I’d been punched in my own belly. Did she really think—but she clearly did. Must have thought so, all the time she had been living with us. She’d seemed to thrive at first, safe from danger and well-fed, with the boys as companions. But the last month or so, she’d seemed withdrawn and thoughtful, eating much less. I’d seen the physical signs and reckoned them as due to her sensing the imminent change; had prepared the emmenagogue herbs, to be ready. That was apparently the case, but obviously I hadn’t guessed the half of it.

"That isn’t true, Fanny," I said, and took her hand. She let me, but it lay in mine like a dead bird. "That’s not your only worth." Oh, God, did it sound as though she had another, and that’s why we had—

"I mean—we didn’t take you in because we thought you… you’d be profitable to us in some way. Not at all." She turned her face away, with an almost inaudible sniffing noise. This was getting worse by the moment. I had a sudden memory of Brianna as a young teenager, and spending hours in her bedroom, mired in futile reassurances — no, you aren’t ugly, of course you’ll have a boyfriend when it’s time, no, everybody doesn’t hate you — I hadn’t been good at it then, and clearly those particular maternal skills hadn’t improved with age.

"We took you because we wanted you, sweetheart," I said, stroking the unresponsive hand. "Wanted to take care of you." She pulled it away and curled up again, face in her pillow.

"Do, you didn." Her voice came thick, and she cleared her throat, hard. "William made Mr. Fraser take me."

I laughed out loud, and she turned her head from the pillow to look at me, surprised.

"Really, Fanny," I said. "Speaking as one who knows both of them rather well, I can assure you that no one in the world could make either one of those men do anything whatever against his will. Mr. Fraser is stubborn as a rock, and his son is just like him. How long have you known William?"

"Not…long," she said, uncertain. "But—but he tried to save J-Jane. She liked him." Sudden tears welled in her eyes and she turned her face back into the pillow.

"Oh," I said, much more softly. "I see. You’re thinking of her. Of Jane." Of course.

She nodded and put her face back in the pillow, small shoulders hunched and shaking. Her plait had unraveled and the soft brown curls fell away, exposing the white skin of her neck, slender as a stalk of blanched asparagus.

"It’th the only t-time I ever thaw her cry," she said, the words only half-audible between emotion and muffling.

"Jane? What was it?"

"Her firtht—first—time. Wif—with—a man. When she came back and gave the bloody towel to Mithess Seacrest. She did that, and then she crawled into bed with me and cried. I held huh and—and petted huh—bu—I couldn’t make her thtop.” She pulled her arms under her and shook with silent sobs.

"Sassenach?" Jamie’s voice came from the doorway, husky with sleep. "What’s amiss? I rolled over and found Jem in my bed, instead of you." He spoke calmly, but his eyes were fixed on Fanny’s shivering back. He glanced at me, one eyebrow raised, and moved his head slightly toward the door-jamb. Did I want him to leave?

I glanced down at Fanny and up at him with a helpless twitch of my shoulder, and he moved at once into the room, pulling up a stool beside Fanny’s bed. He noticed the blood-streaks at once and looked up at me again—surely this was my business?—but I shook my head, keeping a hand on Fanny’s back.

"Fanny’s missing her sister," I said, addressing the only aspect of things I thought might be dealt with effectively at the moment.

"Ah," Jamie said softly, and before I could stop him, had bent down and gathered her gently up into his arms. I stiffened for an instant, afraid that having a man touch her just now—but she turned into him at once, flinging her arms about his neck and sobbing into his chest.

He sat down, holding her on his knee, and I felt the unhappy tension in my own shoulders ease, seeing him smooth her hair and murmur things to her in a Gaidhlìg she didn’t speak, but clearly understood as well as a horse or dog might.
Fanny went on sobbing for a bit, but slowly calmed under his touch, only hiccupping now and then.

"I saw your sister just the once," he said softly. "Jane was her name, aye? Jane Eleanor. She was a bonny lass. And she loved ye dear, Frances. I ken that."

Fanny nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks, and I looked at the corner where Mandy lay on the trundle. She was dead to the world, though, thumb plugged securely into her mouth. Fanny got herself under control within a few seconds, though, and I wondered whether she had been beaten at the brothel for weeping or displaying violent emotion.

"She did it fuh me," she said, in tones of absolute desolation. "Killed Captain Harkness. And now she’th dead. It’th all my fault." And despite the whiteness of her clenched knuckles, more tears welled in her eyes. Jamie looked at me over her head, then swallowed to get his own voice under control.

"Ye would have done anything for your sister, aye?" he said, gently rubbing her back between the bony little shoulderblades.

"Yes," she said, voice muffled in his shoulder.

"Aye, of course. And she would ha’ done the same for you—and did. Ye wouldna have hesitated for a moment to lay down your life for her, and nor did she. It wasna your fault, a nighean."

"It was! I shouldn’t have made a fuss, I should have—oh, Janie!"

She clung to him, abandoning herself to grief. Jamie patted her and let her cry, but he looked at me over the disheveled crown of her head and raised his brows.

I got up and came to stand behind him, a hand on his shoulder, and in murmured French, acquainted him in a few words with the other source of Fanny’s distress. He pursed his lips for an instant, but then nodded, never ceasing to pet her and make soothing noises. The tea had gone cold, particles of rosemary and ground ginger floating on the murky surface. I took up the pot and cup and went quietly out to make it fresh.

Jemmy was standing in the dark just outside the door and I nearly crashed into him.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" I said, only just managing to say it in a whisper. "What are you doing here? Why aren’t you asleep?"

He ignored this, looking into the dim light of the bedroom and the humped shadow on the wall, a deeply troubled look on his face.

"What happened to Fanny’s sister, Grannie?"

I hesitated, looking down at him. He was only ten. And surely it was his parents’ place to tell him what they thought he should know. But Fanny was his friend—and God knew, she needed a friend she could trust.

"Come down with me," I said, turning him toward the stair with a hand on his shoulder. "I’ll tell you while I make more tea. And don’t bloody tell your mother I did."

I told him, as simply as I could, and omitting the things Fanny had told me about the late Captain Harkness’s habits.

"Do you know the word ‘whore’—er…’hoor,’ I mean?" I amended, and the frown of incomprehension relaxed.

"Sure. Germain told me. Hoors are ladies that go to bed with men they aren’t married to. Fanny’s not a hoor, though— was her sister?" He looked troubled at the thought.

"Well, yes," I said. "Not to put too fine a point on it. But women—or girls—who become whores do it because they have no other way to earn a living. Not because they want to, I mean."

He looked confused. "How do they earn money?"

"Oh. The men pay them to—er—go to bed with them. Take my word for it," I assured him, seeing his eyes widen in astonishment.

"I go to bed with Mandy and Fanny all the time," he protested. "And Germain, too. I wouldn’t pay them money for being girls!"

"Jeremiah," I said, pouring fresh hot water into the pot. "’Go to bed’ is a euphemism—do you know that word? It means saying something that sounds better than what you’re really talking about—for sexual intercourse."

"Oh, that," he said, his face clearing. "Like the pigs?"

"Rather like that, yes. Find me a clean cloth, will you? There should be some in the lower cupboard." I knelt, knees creaking slightly, and scooped the hot stone out of the ashes with the poker. It made a small hissing sound as the cold air of the surgery hit the hot surface.

"So," I said, reaching for the cloth he’d fetched me, and trying for as matter-of-fact a voice as could be managed, "Jane and Fanny’s parents had died, and they had no way to feed themselves, so Jane became a whore. But some men are very wicked…I expect you know that already, don’t you?" I added, glancing up at him, and he nodded soberly.

"Yes. Well, a wicked man came to the place where Jane and Fanny lived and wanted to make Fanny go to bed with him, even though she was much too young to do such a thing. And…er…Jane killed him."

"Wow."

I blinked at him, but it had been said with the deepest respect. I coughed, and began folding the cloth.

"It was very heroic of her, yes. But she—"

"How did she kill him?"

"With a knife," I said, a little tersely, hoping he wouldn’t ask for details. I knew them, thanks to Rachel and Lord John, and wished I didn’t.

"But the man was a soldier, and when the British army found out, they arrested Jane."

"Oh, Jesus," Jem said, in tones of awed horror. "Did they hang her, like they tried to hang Dad?"

I tried to think whether I should tell him not to take the Lord’s name in vain, but on the one hand, he clearly hadn’t meant it that way—and for another, I was a blackened pot in that particular regard.

"They meant to. She was alone, and very much afraid—and she…well, she killed herself, darling."

He looked at me for a long moment, face blank, then swallowed, hard.

"Did Jane go to Hell, Grannie?" he asked, in a small voice. "Is that why Fanny’s so sad?"

I’d wrapped the stone thickly in cloth; the heat of it glowed in the palms of my hands.

"No, sweetheart," I said, with as much conviction as I could muster. "I’m quite sure she didn’t. God would certainly understand the circumstances. No, Fanny’s just missing her sister."

He nodded, very sober.

"I’d miss Mandy, if she killed somebody and got—" He gulped at the thought. I was somewhat concerned to note that the notion of Mandy killing someone apparently seemed reasonable to him, but then…

"I’m quite sure nothing like that would ever happen to Mandy. Here." I gave him the wrapped stone. "Be careful with it."

We made our way slowly upstairs, trailing warm ginger steam, and found Jamie sitting beside Fanny on the bed, a small collection of things laid out on the quilt between them. He looked up at me, flicked an eyebrow at Jem, and then nodded at the quilt.



Excerpt 2 – "Narcolepsy"
There was not only a quarter of an apple pie and cream to go on it, but a heel of sharp cheese, cold potato pancakes, salt in a twist of paper, and a dish containing the last of the pickled herrings he’d brought from Salem two weeks ago. And a jug of milk. And one of small-beer. And two cups, a knife for the cheese, and a pair of spoons. And an old dish-cloth, in case of spills. I sat down on the bed beside him and spread this tidily over my knees before picking up my own spoon.

"Shall I poke up the fire?" I asked. It was a bit chilly in the room, but Jamie was radiating a sleepy warmth, and I liked the irregular glimmer from the smoored hearth; it gave me a pleasantly dream-like feeling, a sense of midnight secrecy.

"No on my account, Sassenach. I’ll likely be asleep again, directly I’ve finished my supper." He gave a sudden huge involuntary yawn, then shook his head as though driving off an imminent threat of sleep.

"Do you know a General Lincoln?" I asked. "Benjamin, I think his first name is."
He paused, a bite of cheese halfway to his mouth and blinked once or twice.

"I wouldna say he’s a personal friend, but I’ve heard the name, aye. He’s commander of the Southern Army." He ate the cheese slowly, swallowed, and added, "Why?"

"Denzell Hunter told me that the General suffers from narcolepsy. Your yawning just reminded me of it."

He shot me a mildly suspicious look, and reached for a pickled herring.

"Do I want to know what that is?"

"Probably not. But on the off-chance that you ever meet General Lincoln, it might be helpful to know. It’s a rather fascinating condition wherein the patient falls quite suddenly asleep, no matter what he’s doing."

That interested him; he ate the bit of herring but didn’t reach for another.

"No matter what? Even if he should be eating? Or in battle? That might be just a wee bit awkward, aye?"

"That appeared to be the possibility that was occupying Denny’s mind, yes."

He yawned again, without warning.

"Does it come on suddenly? Or is it contagious? I think I may have caught it. Oh, God." He yawned again and blinked, eyes watering slightly.

"I doubt narcolepsy is catching, but yawning is," I said, smothering an involuntary gape. "Will you stop doing that?"

He let his head fall back, eyes closed, and gave a faint groan, then straightened up again and reached for the last of the pie.

I wasn’t surprised. He’d left at dawn, going after a hog that had been making repeated nightly efforts to root up my garden fence and devour the last of the neeps and yams. He’d tracked the beast for more than two miles before finding and killing it—and had then dragged it back, single-handed. Even gralloched, the thing weighed more than I did, but there were wolves about and he’d been unwilling to leave the carcass long enough to come home and fetch help. He and the hog had finally arrived, dead-tired and dead, respectively, just after nightfall.

I’d been of two minds about waking him—but he’d been too tired to eat much supper. And then again, it was apple pie. We finished the meal in a companionable silence, and after rinsing his mouth with water and spitting out the window, Jamie came back to bed like a heavy-eyed homing pigeon.

"I think I’ll work for a bit in the surgery," I said, drawing the quilts up under his chin. His eyes were already half-shut. "I’ll be up in an hour or so."

"Dinna hurry yourself on my account, Sassenach." He snaked an arm out from under the covers and drew me down, giving me a sweet, pie-scented kiss with undertones of herring. "I willna be much good to ye in bed for another fortnight or so."


"That a promise, is it?" I kissed him gently back. "I’ll circle the date on my calendar."



Excerpt 1 – "For Murtagh and Ian"

"Oh, ye’ve got your beads after all," Jenny said, surprised. "Ye didna have your rosary in Scotland, so I thought ye’d lost it. Meant to make ye a new one, but there wasna time, what with Ian…" She lifted one shoulder, the gesture encompassing the whole of the terrible months of Ian’s long dying.

He touched the beads, self-conscious. "Aye, well… I had, in a way of speaking. I… gave it to William. When he was a wee lad, and I had to leave him at Helwater. I gave him the beads for something to keep—to… remember me by."

"Mmphm." She looked at him with sympathy. "Aye. And I expect he gave them back to ye in Philadelphia, did he?"

"He did," Jamie said, a bit terse, and a wry amusement touched Jenny’s face.

"Tell ye one thing, a brathair—he’s no going to forget you."

"Aye, maybe not," he said, feeling an unexpected comfort in the thought. "Well, then…" He let the beads run through his fingers, taking hold of the crucifix. "I believe in one God…"
They said the Creed together, and the three Hail Marys and the Glory Be.

"Joyful or Glorious?" he asked, fingers on the first bead of the decades. He didn’t want to do the Sorrowful Mysteries, the ones about suffering and crucifixion, and he didn’t think she did, either. A magpie called from the maples, and he wondered briefly if it was one they’d already seen, or a third. Three for a wedding, four for a death.

"Joyful," she said at once. "The Annunciation." Then she paused, and nodded at him to take the first turn. He didn’t have to think.

"For Murtagh," he said quietly, and his fingers tightened on the bead. "And Mam and Da. Hail Mary, full o’ grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blest is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen." Jenny finished the prayer and they said the rest of the decade in their usual way, back and forth, the rhythm of their voices soft as the rustle of grass.

They reached the second decade, the Visitation, and he nodded at Jenny—her turn.

"For Ian Òg," she said softly, eyes on her beads. "And Ian Mòr. Hail Mary…."





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Page produced by Dorianne Panich 

11 comments:

  1. Diana, your beautiful work leaves me breathless, stunned and full of admiration for your talent. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Lynn

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  2. We're so glad you come to Outlander Homepage to keep up with all that's happening in the world of Outlander! Thank you for supporting our Wee Blog.

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  3. I am about to finish WIMOHB for the second time. I am on page 955. I have read all of them 3 or 4 times. I tried to read slow, but that is impossible, as I love these books. Please hurry with the last one (or maybe not the last one) so I don't have to wait to long. I loved these teasers, but a whole book would be better.

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  4. Diana thank you so for these beautiful words..I have no words to express the emotions that you touch while reading your wonderful pages.My heart sings with joy and pains with sorrow at your written words. Please never stop writing!

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  5. Diana thank you so for these beautiful words..I have no words to express the emotions that you touch while reading your wonderful pages.My heart sings with joy and pains with sorrow at your written words. Please never stop writing!

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  6. I just would like to thank Mr.Watkins and the rest of Ms.Gabaldon's family for their perseverance while their Mother and wife write these enormous tombs, and very well done. Thank you, Barbara Jo Price

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  7. I just would like to thank Mr.Watkins and the rest of Ms.Gabaldon's family for their perseverance while their Mother and wife write these enormous tombs, and very well done. Thank you, Barbara Jo Price

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  8. I hope there will be a new excerpt soon

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  9. I just saw an exert titled Coon Hunt.
    Coon was a derogatory named for indigenous Australians, used once upon a time. I had to look twice when I saw it! Did you know they used to issue licences to shoot aboriginals in Australia?! Thank God times have changed and I know that this is not about Australia's history, but that is instantly what I thought of when I saw that title.

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  10. It's too soon to start re-reading before the start of the 4th season, so when I am "missing" Claire and Jamie et al, I visit your Daily Lines. Love how your words just satisfy the "missing".

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  11. Cannot wait for book Number 9 to come out. Loved reading these daily lines. Thank you Diana!

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