Home > Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (Outlander #9)(6)

Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (Outlander #9)(6)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Startled by his mother’s cry, Orrie dropped the chamber pot—more or less missing Jem but decanting its fetid contents into the newly stirred fire—and ran for the door. His mother pursued him, pausing only to snatch up a broom. Enraged Gaelic shouts and high-pitched yelps of terror receded into the distance.

Jem, to whom morning was anathema, looked at the spluttering mess in the hearth, wrinkled his nose, and stood up. He swayed for a moment, then ambled to the table and sat down next to Roger, yawning.

There was silence. A charred log broke suddenly in the hearth and a spurt of sparks flew out of the mess, like a final comment on the state of things.

Roger cleared his throat.

“Man that is born of woman is full of trouble as the sparks that fly upward,” he observed.

Bobby slowly turned his head from contemplation of the hearth to look at Roger. His eyes were smoke-reddened, and the old “M” brand on his cheek showed white in the dim light of the cabin.

“Well put, Preacher,” he said. “Welcome back.”


IT WAS WHAT her mother called a blue wine day. One where air and sky were one thing together and every breath intoxication. Chestnut and oak 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.

“Feur-milis,” he said, gesturing to the wide meadow that opened out before them. “Recall any of the Gàidhlig, do ye, lass?”

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

“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 of painters and bears.”

The whole of the meadow rippled, the silver-green heads of millions of grass stems in movement catching morning sun. Here and there, yellow and white 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 offhandedly over his shoulder. “We dinna need to kill those in summer; there’s better meat and plenty of it.”

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 and the new fawns begin to gather into wee herds. It’s nowhere near rut yet, but the bucks are always thinkin’ on it. He kens well enough where they are.” He nodded in the direction of the vanished deer.

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 near the meadow but downwind of us; we won’t get near, save we climb up and come down on them from the far side of the ridge.” He nodded toward the west, though, across the meadow. “I thought we’d maybe stop by Young Ian’s place first, though, if ye dinna mind?”

“Mind? No!” She felt a surge of delight at the mention of her cousin. “Somebody by the fire last night said he’s married now—who did he marry?” She was more than curious about Ian’s wife; some ten years before, he’d asked her to marry him, and while that had been a counsel of desperation—and completely ridiculous, to boot—she was aware that the thought of bedding her hadn’t been unwelcome to him. Later, with both of them adults and her married, him divorced from his Indian wife, a sense of physical attraction had been silently acknowledged between them—and just as silently dismissed.

Still, there were echoes of fondness between them, and she hoped she would like Ian’s unknown wife.

Her father laughed. “Ye’ll like her, lass. Rachel Hunter is her name; she’s a Quaker.”

A vision of a drab little woman with downcast eyes came to her, but her father caught the look of doubt on her face and shook his head.

“She’s no what ye’d think. She speaks her mind. And Ian’s mad in love wi’ her—and she with him.”

“Oh. That’s good!” She meant it, but her father cast her an amused glance, one brow raised. He said nothing further, though, and turned to lead the way through the rippling waves of fragrant grass.


IAN’S CABIN WAS charming. Not that it was markedly different 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 at the MacCree’s 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 mehhs 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—”

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