Two new bits of BEES…
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[ This excerpt is from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE. Copyright © 2021 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.]
William found Moira, the cook, in the kitchen garden, pulling spring onions. She was talking to Amaranthus, who had evidently been gathering as well; she carried a trug that held a large mound of grapes and a few pears from the small tree that grew near the cook-house. With an eye for the fruit, he strode up and bade the women good morning. Amaranthus gave him an up and down glance, inhaled as though trying to judge his state of intoxication from his aroma, and with a faint shake of the head, handed him a ripe pear.
“Coffee?” he said hopefully to Moira.
“Well, I’ll not be saying there isn’t,” she said dubiously. “It’s left from yesterday, though, and strong enough to take the shine off your teeth.”
“Perfect,” he assured her, and bit into the pear, closing his eyes as the luscious juice flooded his mouth. He opened them to find Amaranthus, back turned to him, stooping to look at something on the ground among the radishes. She was wearing a thin wrapper over her shift, and the fabric stretched neatly over her very round bottom.
She stood up suddenly, turning round and he at once bent toward the ground she’d been looking at, saying, “What is that?”, though he personally saw nothing but dirt and a lot of radish tops.
“What do they do with them? The, um, balls of ordure, I mean.”
“Eat them,” she said, with a slight shrug. “They bury the balls for safekeeping, and then eat them as need requires—or sometimes they breed inside the larger ones.”
“How… cozy. Have you had any breakfast?” William asked, raising one brow.
“No, it isn’t ready yet.”
“Neither have I,” he said, getting to his feet. “Though I’m not quite as hungry as I was before you told me that.” He glanced down at his waistcoat. “Have I any dung beetles in this noble assemblage?”
That made her laugh.
“No, you haven’t,” she said. “Not nearly colorful enough.”
Amaranthus was suddenly standing quite close to him, though he was sure he hadn’t seen her move. She had the odd trick of seeming to apparate suddenly out of thin air; it was disconcerting, but rather intriguing.
“That bright green one,” she said, pointing a long, delicate finger at his middle, “is a Dogbane Leaf Beetle, Chrisosuchus auratus.”
“Is it, really?”
“Yes, and this lovely creature with the long nose is a Billbug.”
“A pillbug?” William squinted down his chest.
“No, a Billbug,” she said, tapping the bug in question. “It’s a sort of weevil, but it eats cat-tails. And young corn.”
“Rather a varied diet.”
“Well, unless you’re a dung beetle, you do have some choice in what you eat,” she said, smiling. She touched another of the beetles, and William felt a faint but noticeable jolt at the base of his spine. “Now here,” she said, with small, distinct taps of her finger, “we have an Emerald Ash Borer, a Festive Tiger Beetle, and the False Potato Beetle.”
“What does a true Potato Beetle look like?”
“Very much the same. This one’s called a False Potato Beetle because while it will eat potatoes in a pinch, it really prefers horse nettles.”
“Ah.” He thought he should express interest in the rest of the little things ornamenting his waistcoat, in hopes that she’d go on tapping them. He was opening his mouth to inquire about a large cream-colored thing with horns, when she stepped back in order to look up into his face.
“I heard my father-in-law talking to Lord John about you,” she said.
“Oh? Good. I hope they’d a fine day for it,” he said, not really caring.
“Speaking of False Potato Beetles, I mean,” she said. He closed his eyes briefly, then opened one and looked at her. She was perfectly solid, not wavering in the slightest.
“I know I’m a trifle the worse for drink,” he said politely. “But I don’t think I resemble any sort of Potato Beetle, regardless of my uncle’s opinion.”
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[This excerpt is also from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright © 2021 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.]
[ . . . ] had volunteered to rise early—very early—and make the gallons of brose and parritch to feed the militia. The warm, creamy smell crept up the stairs and eased me into wakefulness like a soft hand on my cheek. I stretched luxuriously in the warm bed and rolled over, enjoying the picture of Jamie, long-legged as a stork and stark naked, bent over the washstand to peer into the looking-glass as he shaved by candlelight. Dawn was no more yet than a fading of the stars outside the dark window.
“Getting all spruced up for the gang?” I asked. “Are you doing something formal with them this morning?”
He drew the razor over his pulled-down upper lip, then flicked the foam to the side of the basin.
“Aye, horse drills. It’ll just be the mounted men today. With the Tall Tree, we’ll have twenty-one.” He grinned at me in the mirror, his teeth as white as the shaving soap. “Enough for a decent cattle raid.”
“Can Cyrus ride?” I was surprised at that; the Crombies, Wilsons, MacReadys and Geohagens were all fisherfolk who had come—by God knew what circuitous and difficult means—to us from Thurso. They were, for the most part, openly afraid of horses, and almost none of them could ride.
Jamie drew the blade up his neck, craned his head to evaluate the results, and shrugged.
“We’ll find out.”
He rinsed the razor, dried it on the worn linen towel, then used the towel to wipe his face.
“If I mean them to take it seriously, Sassenach, they’d best think I do.”
The sky was lightening, but it was still dark on the ground and only a few of the men had gathered when Cyrus Crombie came down out of the trees. The men glanced at him in surprise, but when Jamie greeted him, they all nodded and muttered “Madainn math,” or grunted in acknowledgement.
“Here, lad,” Jamie said, thrusting a wooden cup of hot brose into the Tall Tree’s hand. “Warm your belly, and come meet Matilda. She belongs to Frances, but the lass says she’ willing to lend ye the mare until we can find ye a horse of your own.”
“Frances? Oh. I-I thank her.” The Tall Tree glowed a bit and glanced shyly at the house, and then at the horse. Matilda was a big mare, stout and broad-backed, and with a gentle, accommodating manner.
Young Ian had come down now, in buckskins and jacket, his hair plaited and hanging loose down his back. He glanced round the group of men, nodding, then came for his own brose, lifting a brow in the direction of Cyrus.
“[Tall Tree] will be joining us,” Jamie said casually. “Will ye show him the way of it, to saddle and bridle Matilda, while I tell the men what we’re about?”
“Aye,” Ian said, swallowing hot barley broth and exhaling a cloud of white steam. “And what are we about?”
“Cavalry drills.” That made Ian raise both brows and glance over his shoulder at the group of men, who looked like what they were—farmers. They all owned horses, and could ride from the Ridge to Salem without falling off, but beyond that…
“Simple cavalry drills,” Jamie clarified. “Riding slowly.”
Young Ian looked thoughtfully at Cyrus, standing at eager attention.
“Aye,” he said, and crossed himself.
Please visit my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, where more excerpts (aka “Daily Lines”) and other information about book nine in my OUTLANDER series of major novels.
These excerpts were also posted on my official Facebook page on Monday, February 1, 2021 and Monday, February 8, 2021.
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