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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.
Return to my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I HAVE GONE.
Selected Social Media Questions and Comments:
Did you take the image of the bee in your garden?
Yes, a late-blooming weed of some kind. Bees all over it! (The full-sized version of the image above is at right. Click to view a larger version.)
I know it irritates you when people ask you for the last book. It is a loonngg time people wait between books. I find that waiting 6 months is a bit much in several of my favorite authors series. Your long term readers should be applauded as should the quality of writing that allows your fans to wait somewhat patiently. Just realize there are some of your readers that have chronic illnesses that truly fear they will miss the last of this incredible love story. So do not get angry at the impatient readers. It is an honor to your writing that there are some of us where time is not a given.
I’m never angry at them—just wonder why they think pestering me will make me write faster… I mean, I’m only capable of writing at a certain pace, if I’m going to make it a good book—and I do mean to. <smile>
Note from Diana’s Webmistress: BEES (Book Nine) is not the “last book” in Diana’s Outlander series of major novels. Diana has said there will be a Book Ten after BEES. And likely a prequel after that about Jamie’s parents.
Since you now have people and faces to your book characters [in the Outlander TV show,] have they made an impact on what your book characters are doing -or anything like that????
No. The show really doesn’t affect anything I do writing-wise.
What makes up Clare’s emergency kit?
It’s a leather satchel with a cross-body strap, so she can carry it easily through woods or across battle-fields.
Dangling a carrot in front of us, are ye? Not nice!
Well, you can always choose not to read the excerpts… <she says sweetly>
This excerpt was released on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, about 2 a.m. on my official Facebook page.