Home > Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (Outlander #9)(7)

Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (Outlander #9)(7)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

“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 burned 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.”


BRIANNA WAS CARRYING the family fowling piece, while her father had his good rifle. She wouldn’t fire on any birds or small game, though, while there was a chance of spooking deer nearby. 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. Swallowing, she 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 again. They stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.

“Trobhad agus òl, a nighean,” 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 he 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, it was still alive—then up.

“Weh!” 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!”

“A charaid!” 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 resqueezed. 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, she 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 ye? And the bairns?”

“Yes, they are,” she assured him. “Roger’s probably 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 gun 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 reseated 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 bràthair mo mhàthair!”

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