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“A Wise Man”

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[This is an excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright © 2020 by Diana Gabaldon.]

2020-04-30-bee-imageThey passed a group of men, twenty or so, faceless under the dark brims of their hats, but the moon lit a pale cloud of the dust kicked up by their boots, so it seemed they walked knee-deep through a rising fog. They were Scotch-Irish, talking loudly, noticeably drunk and arguing among themselves, and Jamie and Ian passed by unnoticed. Francis Locke had said there were a number of militia companies in the town; these men had the look of new militia—self-important and unsure at the same time, and wanting to show that they weren’t.

They crossed through the Square and the streets behind it, and found silence again amid the calling of owls from the trees near Town Creek. Ian broke it, talking low, halfway to himself and halfway not.

“Last time I walked like this—at night, I mean, just walking, not huntin’—was just after Monmouth,” he said. “I’d been in the British camp, wi’ his lordship, and he asked me to stay, because I’d an arrow in my arm—ye recall that, aye? Ye broke the shaft for me, earlier that day.”

“I’d forgot,” Jamie admitted.

“Well, it was a long day.”

“Aye. I remember bits and pieces—I lost my horse when he went off a bridge into one of those hellish morasses, and I’m never going to forget the sound o’ that.” A deep shudder curdled his wame, recalling the taste of his own vomit. “And then I remember General Washington—were ye there, Ian, when he turned back the retreat after Lee made a collieshangie of it?”

“Aye,” Ian said, and laughed a little. “Though I didna take much notice. I had my own bit o’ trouble to settle, with the Abenaki. And I did settle it, too,” he added, grimness coming into his voice. “Your men got one o’ them, but I killed the other in the British camp that night, wi’ his own tomahawk.”

“I hadna heard about that,” Jamie said, surprised. “Ye did it in the British camp? Ye never told me that. How did ye come to be there, for that matter? Last I saw ye was just before the battle, and the next I saw ye, your cousin William was bringin’ what I thought was your corpse into Freehold on a mule.”

And the next time he’d seen William had been in Savannah, when his son had come to ask his help in saving Jane Pocock. They’d been too late. That failure had been neither of their faults, but his heart still hurt for the poor wee lassie… and for his poor lad.

“I dinna mind most o’ that, myself,” Ian said. “I came in wi’ Lord John—we got arrested together—but then I walked out o’ the camp, meanin’ to go find Rachel or you, but I was bad wi’ the fever, the night goin’ in and out around me like as if it was breathin’ and I was walkin’ along through the stars wi’ my Da beside me, just talkin’ to him, as if…”

“As if he was there,” Jamie finished, smiling. “I expect he was. I feel him beside me, now and then.” He glanced automatically to his right as he said this, as though Ian Mhor might indeed be there now.

“We were talkin’ o’ the Indian I’d just killed—and I said it put me in mind o’ that gobshite who tried to extort ye, uncle—the one I killed there by the fire. I said something about how it seemed different, killing a man face to face, but I’d thought I ought to be used to such things by now, and I wasn’t. And he said I maybe shouldn’t be,” Ian said thoughtfully. “He said it couldna be good for my soul, bein’ used to things like that.”

“Your Da’s a wise man.”

Return to my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE for links to information and more Daily Lines (excerpts).

Many thanks to Milissa Vitrella for the great photo of a bumblebee on a butterfly bush!

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This excerpt (“Daily Lines”) was also posted on my official Facebook page on Thursday, April 30, 2020.

This BEES excerpt page was last updated on Friday, September 18, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. (CT) by Diana or Diana’s Webmistress.