Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, the last book (10) excerpts

Excerpts


"William"

#DailyLines   #Book10  #ABombInTheHand  #dontbotheraskingwhenitwillbedone  #really  #dont  #youllfindoutwhenIdo  

[Excerpt from Book 10 [Untitled], Copyright 2022 Diana Gabaldon]

 “What are you thinking?”  I asked.  “I know it’s about William.”

 “Oh, aye?”  He glanced at me, mouth curled up at one side.  “And what do I look like if I’m thinking of William?”

 “Like someone’s handed you a wrapped package and you’re not sure whether it’s something wonderful, or a bomb.”

 That made him laugh, and he put an arm around me and pulled me in close, kissing my temple.  He smelled of day-old linen, ink and hay, and the dribble of honey that had dried down the front of his shirt, like tiny amber beads.

 “Aye, well, one look at the lad and ye ken he’ll explode before too long,” he said.  “I only hope he doesna damage himself doing it.”

 “Or you.” 

He shrugged comfortably

“I’m no very breakable, Sassenach.

“Says the man with four—no, five bullet holes in his hide, to say nothing of enough surgical stitching to make a whole crazy quilt.  And if we start counting the bones you’ve cracked or broken…

“Ach, away—I’ve never broken anything important; just the odd finger.  Maybe a rib, here or there.

“And your sternum and your left kneecap.

He made a dismissive Scottish noise, but didn’t argue

We stood for a bit, arms about each other, listening to the sounds outside.  The younger children had fallen asleep under bushes or in their parents’ wagons, their happy screeching replaced by music and the laughter of the dancers, the clapping and calls of those watching.

“He came to me,” Jamie said quietly.  He was trying to sound matter-of-fact, but he’d stopped trying to hide what he was feeling.

“He did,” I said softly, and squeezed his arm.

“I suppose there wasna really anyone else he could go to,” he said, off-handed.  “If he canna find his grace, I mean, and he couldna very well talk to anyone in the army, could he?  Given that….”  He stopped, a thought having struck him, and turned to me.

“D’ye think he knows, Sassenach?”

“Knows what?”

“About—what he said.  The…threat to Lord John.  I mean--”  he elaborated, seeing my blank look, “does he ken that it’s no just a canard.”

“A—oh.”  I stopped to consider for a moment, then shook my head with decision.  “No.  Almost certainly not.  You saw his face when he told us about what Richardson was threatening.   He’d still have been scared—maybe more scared—if he knew it wasn’t an empty threat—but he wouldn’t have looked the way he did.”

Anxious?  Angry?”

“Both.  But Anyone would be, wouldn’t they?  Under the circumstances.”

“They would.  And…determined, would ye say?”

 “Stubborn,” I said promptly, and he laughed.

 “A bomb for sure, then.”



William on the Ridge

#DailyLines   #UntitledBook10    #HappyEaster   #ChagPesachSameach    #or #DeliriousRitesofSpring  #YourPreference  #nospoilers

[Excerpt from (Untitled) Book Ten, Copyright 2022 Diana Gabaldon]

The room was large and dim; someone had tacked part of a burlap sack over the large window, but light filtered through.  So  did a breeze carrying the earthy smell of fresh potatoes through the burlap.  He picked loose a couple of tacks and the breeze, thus invited, cooled his face and rippled through his hair, like the touch of gentle fingers.

“Mother?” he said softly.

It hadn’t happened in some time.  When he was younger, he felt it often; the passing touch of a hand, stroking his head, touching his shoulder, vanished in a moment.  He’d never told anyone about it.

 Maybe she was here, because _he_ was here—Fraser?

Fraser had declined to tell him anything regarding his relations with Mother Geneva, and William was reluctantly obliged to admit that this was gentlemanly of him.

 “I still want to know, though.”

 “Know what?”

He swung round, startled, to find his sister standing in the doorway, her face full of joy and her arms full of quilts.

“I—nothing,” he said, and felt a sudden bounce in his heart.  “Sister.  I—it’s good to see you.”   The smile on her face was on his own, and she dropped the bedding and hugged him tight.  The smell of her was different from the last time he’d seen her.  The pungent scents of turpentine and linseed oil were gone, replaced by an oddly disorienting scent that he tentatively identified as milk and baby-shit.

 “You’ve had a child?” he blurted, letting go.  “Another, I mean?” It wasn’t surprise at the revelation, as much as the fact that the scents of motherhood were inextricably linked with Amaranthus in his mind.

 “You have a new nephew,” she said, laughing at him.  “Davy.  David William James Fraser MacKenzie, to be exact.”

 “William?”  He could feel his lips twitching, not sure whether he should assume that…

 “Yes, we named him for you,” she assured him.  “Partly.”

 “Well, I’m entirely grateful,” he said, smiling.  “And most sensible of the honor…sister.”

 “Brother,” she said softly, and reached out to touch his face.  “It’s good to see you.  Will you stay awhile?”



"Jamie's dream"

Aaaand....Happy Birthday to James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, born May 1st, 1721!

#DailyLines #UntitledBook10  

“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.”



Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 

 “What are you thinking?”  I asked.  “I know it’s about William.”

 “Oh, aye?”  He glanced at me, mouth curled up at one side.  “And what do I look like if I’m thinking of William?”

 “Like someone’s handed you a wrapped package and you’re not sure whether it’s something wonderful, or a bomb.”

 That made him laugh, and he put an arm around me and pulled me in close, kissing my temple. He smelled of day-old linen, ink and hay, and the dribble of honey that had dried down the front of his shirt, like tiny amber beads.

 “Aye, well, one look at the lad and ye ken he’ll explode before too long,” he said.  “I only hope he doesna damage himself doing it.”

 “Or you.”  

He shrugged comfortably.

“I’m no very breakable, Sassenach.”

“Says the man with four—no, five bullet holes in his hide, to say nothing of enough surgical stitching to make a whole crazy quilt.  And if we start counting the bones you’ve cracked or broken…”

“Ach, away—I’ve never broken anything important; just the odd finger.  Maybe a rib, here or there.”

“And your sternum and your left kneecap.”

He made a dismissive Scottish noise, but didn’t argue.

We stood for a bit, arms about each other, listening to the sounds outside.  The younger children had fallen asleep under bushes or in their parents’ wagons, their happy screeching replaced by music and the laughter of the dancers, the clapping and calls of those watching.

 “He came to me,” Jamie said quietly.  He was trying to sound matter-of-fact, but he’d stopped trying to hide what he was feeling.

“He did,” I said softly, and squeezed his arm.

“I suppose there wasna really anyone else he could go to,” he said, off-handed.  “If he canna find his grace, I mean, and he couldna very well talk to anyone in the army, could he?  Given that….”  He stopped, a thought having struck him, and turned to me.

“D’ye think he knows, Sassenach?”

“Knows what?”

“About—what he said.  The…threat to Lord John.  I mean--”  he elaborated, seeing my blank look, “does he ken that it’s no just a canard.”

“A—oh.”  I stopped to consider for a moment, then shook my head with decision.  “No.  Almost certainly not.  You saw his face when he told us about what Richardson was threatening.   He’d still have been scared—maybe more scared, if he knew it wasn’t an empty threat—but he wouldn’t have looked the way he did.”

“Anxious?  Angry?”

“Both.  But anyone would be, wouldn’t they?  Under the circumstances.”

“They would.  And…determined, would ye say?”

“Stubborn,” I said promptly, and he laughed.

“A bomb for sure, then.”

The air had cooled with the setting of the sun.  Now it was full dark and the mountain breathed, a lithe sense of spring in an air filled with night-blooming flowers and the resins of resting trees.   It would be different on the coast.  Still fresh, but strong  with fish and seaweed, tar and wood and the tang of salt in everything.

I might have one more mountain night like this, maybe two or three, but likely not more.  I breathed deep, resolved to enjoy it.  

“When?” I asked.

“If it were up to William, we’d already be gone,” Jamie said, drawing me closer.  “I told him I must think, but meanwhile, preparations would be made; no time will be wasted. “  He glanced toward the window.   With luck, Brianna and Roger Mac will have him drunk by now; he’ll sleep sound.  He kens he’s safe,” he added, softly.  “Or I hope so, at least.”

 “I’m sure that he does,” I said, also softly, and rubbed his back, the scars invisible under his shirt.  His children, his grandchildren.  If only for a moment, here, together, in the place he had made.

 There was a break in the music, though the air was still full of talk and laughter.  That died down now, though, and there were a few moments of silence before the faint sounds of a guitar drifted up from the distant bonfire.  Then two voices, one rough and one smooth, weaving a song.

 Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

 Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…

 My heart squeezed tight and so did my throat.  I’d never heard Bree and Roger sing together.  They must have done this before, though, in private; perhaps as an exercise to strengthen Roger’s voice.

 We stood in silence ‘til the song was over, listening to magic.  I looked up at Jamie’s face, soft in the candlelight, his eyes far away.  He didn’t hear music, as such, but I knew he felt the song anyway.




William and Davy

A piercing scream stopped Brianna in mid-word.  At once, she detached the infant from her person and pushed him into William’s arms.

 “Here,” she said, and disappeared in a rustle of skirts.  He heard her footsteps, irregular thuds suggesting that she was taking the porch stairs two or three at a time, and then her distant voice inside the house, upraised in adjuration.  He looked down at the warm bundle, and carefully readjusted it so that the child rested—face up—in the crook of his elbow.

 The little boy was smacking his milky lips in a thoughtful sort of way, as though curious as to the sudden change in his circumstances, but didn’t seem to object to them.

 “Hullo,” he said, tentatively.  The infant’s round eyes narrowed suddenly.  The little body stiffened and a sharp smell of fresh pee made William hold the baby hastily out at arm’s length, then squat and lay David on the grass before anything else happened.  Something else promptly did, and the child turned purple and began shrieking.

 “Really?”  William said.  “Come now, we scarcely know one another.”  A quick glance at the house revealed a complete absence of Brianna or any other woman who might be helpful, and the muffled shouting inside suggested that no one was likely to appear very soon.  He rubbed a finger under his nose, then shrugged and set about gingerly removing the infant’s napkin, which was wet and filled with a sweetish smelling, mustard-like substance, sufficient in quantity as to have leaked down the baby’s legs.

 The blanket was wet in spots, but not filthy, and he used it to clean the tiny privates and legs.  The shirt had suffered somewhat in the eruption, and he managed to roll this up and edge it gingerly over the child’s head without getting too much shit on either of them.  David had quit yelling by this point, and kicked his little bandy legs with enthusiasm.

 “Better, yes?”  William asked, smiling down at him.  “Yes, I think so, too.  What the devil am I to put on you, though?”

 Davy—yes, that’s what his sister called the baby—was a good deal younger than Trevor had been the first time William had met him, but the sensation of something at once very fragile and yet amazingly solid—very male--brought back immediate memories of Amaranthus’s son—and Amaranthus.

William blew out his breath and drew it in again, slowly, trying to ease the sudden knot in the pit of his stomach.

 “Where are you?” he said softly to the mountain air.  “And what are you doing?”

 _What have you done_?  This thought came on the heels of the first, and he shook his head violently, in hopes of dislodging it.  Pressing his lips together, he pulled a large—and only slightly used—handkerchief from his pocket and shook it out.

 “Better than nothing,” he said to Davy.  “Must keep up appearances, mustn’t we?”


Excerpt Rachel's pregnant 

Rachel was sitting in a rocking-chair on the porch in her shift, when William stepped into the little aspen grove where the Murrays’ cabin stood. She heard his footsteps and looked up, her face lighting. Then she saw who it was, and while the light didn’t go from her eyes, her smile changed completely, and she reached for the shawl folded over the rocking-chair’s arm.
“William!” she said, and half-rose, the shawl held to her bosom. “Where on earth has thee come from?” The smile was warm and genuine—but he knew he wasn’t the man she had expected.
“Mrs. Murray,” he said, and bowed, smiling back. “Your servant, ma’am.”
She laughed.
“No man is servant to another, William, and I know thee is aware of that.”
“I’m aware that Friends believe that, yes. But surely you won’t deprive me of the pleasure of offering my meager services to you—_as_ a friend?” He glanced round for something to do; his heart had jumped when he saw her, and hadn’t quite returned to its business. A basket of freshly-picked green pea-pods stood by her rocking chair, along with a yellow pottery bowl, half-filled with shelled peas.
“Sit down,” he said. “I’ll do that.”
He sat down by her, legs dangling over the edge of the porch, and pulled the basket toward himself.
He was aware of a good many things at the moment, all of them concerning Rachel. Her dark hair was loose, somewhat disheveled, and her long legs bare and brown below the hem of her shift. She crossed her—very fine—ankles when she saw his glance, and he averted his gaze, not wanting to embarrass her, though he still wanted to look.
She was alone; the cabin’s door was open and there were no sounds of anyone inside.
On the long climb to the cabin, he hadn’t admitted to himself that he hoped to find her alone…but he had. The last time he’d met her, she’d slapped his face, kicked him in the shin and called him a rooster. She hadn’t meant any of it by way of compliment, and he hoped to make amends.
Still, that had been nearly three years ago, and she seemed well-enough disposed to him at the moment…and she was safely married now.
“My apologies,” he said. “I should have thought to bring you something from the feast—there’s a vast quantity of food; enough to keep the whole of the Ridge from starvation for three months, at least. Scores of fried chickens, pies of all descriptions, something I was told was corn fufu—and as it was my sister who told me, I’m inclined to believe her—sweet potatoes with apples and onions, and a monstrous great hog. They said it roasted underground for days, until the flesh began to drop from the bone—the smell of it covers the entire hillside and the remains of the carcass would feed—”
Rachel stood up suddenly, clutched the post that held up the roof of the cabin and vomited off the side of the porch.
“Miss Hunter! I mean…Mrs…Mrs…” In the stress of the moment, her married name had vanished. “Rachel!” He’d scrambled up when she rose, and now seized her elbow to save her falling off the porch.
She made an inarticulate sound, waving a hand to keep him off, and then threw up again, more profusely. She seemed very wobbly, even though she was clinging to the post with both hands now, and he put an arm about her waist to steady her.
“Oh, Jesus!” he said, at once relieved and appalled by the little round swelling that he’d touched beneath her shift. “You’re pregnant!”
Despite her clear disfirmity, she gave him a look that fortunately wasn’t translated into English.
“Forgive me, madam,” he said, gingerly removing his hand from her midriff.
She flapped a hand and stepped back, collapsing into the chair with a force that made it rock briefly to and fro. Her eyes were closed, her face shiny with sweat and she’d gone the color of curdled milk.
“Is there…anything…?” he said, though the situation seemed entirely beyond his capacities.
Her long, soft throat moved as she swallowed, and she grimaced.
“Pickle,” she said. “Pickles. Butter…milk.” She waved a limp hand toward the open door.
The suggestion of pickles with buttermilk made _him_ feel somewhat queasy, but he went immediately inside and rummaged the food-safe, which yielded a small crock of infant cucumbers that, from the smell, had been pickled in vinegar, dill, garlic and black pepper. They hardly seemed appropriate to someone with a deranged digestion, but Amaranthus had told him once the sorts of things she had found comestible while pregnant, all much worse than garlic-scented cucumbers. And dilled pickles _did_ work for sea-sickness…







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2 comments:

  1. I have just finished book 9 so these excerpts from book 10 are nice nuggets of what to expect.

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  2. Enchanting, engaging all the senses, like all of Ms. Gabaldon’s work. I don’t like the waiting but know it will be worth it!

    ReplyDelete