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“Jamie and Roger”

Below is a comment from Diana along with an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…

From Diana’s FaceBook post on May 21, 2015 at 4:36 a.m.:

Congratulations to Germany! They got the Outlander TV series today—so in celebration, I gave them an excerpt from Book 9 on the German website. Though I might as well post it here for the English speakers as well! (NB: There is a major spoiler for Book 8 (MOBY) in here, in case you haven’t read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD yet.)


The fly spiraled down, green and yellow as a falling leaf, to land among the rings of the rising hatch. It floated for a second on the surface, maybe two, then vanished in a tiny splash, yanked out of sight by voracious jaws. Roger flicked the end of his rod sharply to set the hook, but there was no need. The trout were hungry this evening, striking at everything, and his fish had taken the hook so deep that bringing it in needed nothing but brute force.

It came up fighting, though, flapping and silver in the last of the light. He could feel its life through the line, fierce and bright, so much bigger than the fish itself, and his heart rose to meet it.

"Who taught ye to cast, Roger Mac?" His father-in-law took the trout as it came ashore, still flapping, and clubbed it neatly on a stone. "That was as pretty a touch as ever I’ve seen."

Roger made a modest gesture of dismissal, but flushed a little with pleasure at the compliment; Jamie didn’t say such things lightly.

"My father," he said.

"Aye?" Jamie looked startled, and Roger hastened to correct himself.

"The Reverend, I mean. He was really my great-uncle, and by marriage at that."

"Still your father," Jamie said, but smiled. He glanced toward the far side of the pool where Germain and Jemmy were squabbling over who’d caught the biggest fish. They had a respectable string, but hadn’t thought to keep their catches separate, so couldn’t tell who’d caught what.

"Ye dinna think it makes a difference, do ye? That Jem’s mine by blood and Germain by love?"

"You know I don’t." Roger smiled himself at sight of the two boys. Germain was two years older than Jem, but slightly built, like both his parents. Jem had the long bones and wide shoulders of his grandfather—and his father, Roger thought, straightening his own shoulders. The two boys were much of a height, and the hair of both glowed red at the moment, the ruddy light of the sinking sun setting fire to Germain’s blond mop. "Where’s Fanny, come to think? She’d settle them."

Frances was twelve, but sometimes seemed much younger—and often startlingly older. She’d been fast friends with Germain when Jem had arrived on the Ridge, and rather stand-offish, fearing that Jem would come between her and her only friend. But Jem was an open, sweet-tempered lad, and Germain knew a good deal more about how people worked than did the average eleven-year-old ex-pickpocket, and shortly the three of them were to be seen everywhere together, giggling as they slithered through the shrubbery, intent on some mysterious errand, or turning up at the end of churning, too late to help with the work, but just in time for a glass of fresh buttermilk.

"Ach, the poor wee lassie started her courses last night." Jamie lifted a shoulder in an economical shrug that conveyed acknowledgement of the situation, regret, and resignation. "She’s no feeling just that well in herself."

Roger nodded, threading the stringer through the fish’s dark-red gill slit. He knew what Jamie meant. Jem’s arrival hadn’t stopped Fanny’s friendship with Germain—but this might. Or alter it irrevocably, which would likely come to the same thing, so far as Fanny was concerned.

There was nothing to be done about it, though, and neither man said more.

The sun came low through the trees, but the trout were still biting, the water dappling with dozens of bright rings and the frequent splash of a leaping fish. Roger’s fingers tightened for a moment on his rod, tempted—but they had enough for supper and next morning’s breakfast, too. No point in catching more; there were were a dozen casks of smoked and salted fish already put away in the cold-cellar, and the light was going.

Jamie showed no signs of moving, though. He was sitting on a comfortable stump, bare-legged and clad in nothing but his shirt, his old hunting plaid puddled on the ground behind; it had been a warm day for (September, October?) and the balm of it still lingered in the air. He glanced at the boys, who had forgotten their argument and were back at their poles, intent as a pair of kingfishers.

Jamie turned to Roger then, and said, in a quite ordinary tone of voice, "Do Presbyterians have the sacrament of Confession, mac mo chinnidh?"

Roger said nothing for a moment, taken aback both by the question and its immediate implications, and by Jamie’s addressing him as "son of my house"—a thing he’d done exactly once, at the calling of the clans at Mt. Helicon some years before.

The question itself was straight-forward, though, and he answered it that way.

"No. Catholics have seven sacraments but Presbyterians only recognize two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper." He might have left it at that, but the first implication of the question was plain before him.

"D’ye have a thing ye want to tell me, Jamie?" He thought it might be the second time he’d called his father-in-law ‘Jamie’ to his face. "I can’t give ye absolution—but I can listen."

He wouldn’t have said that Jamie’s face showed anything in the way of strain. But now it relaxed and the difference was sufficiently visible that his own heart opened to the man, ready for whatever he might say. Or so he thought.

"Aye." Jamie’s voice was husky and he cleared his throat, ducking his head, a little shy. "Aye, that’ll do fine. D’ye remember the night we took Claire back from the bandits?"

"I’m no likely to forget it," Roger said, staring at him. He cut his eyes at the boys, but they were still at it, and he looked back at Jamie. "Why?" he asked, wary.

"Were ye there wi’ me, at the last, when I broke Hodgepile’s neck and Ian asked me what to do with the rest? I said, ‘Kill them all.’"

"I was there." He had been. And he didn’t want to go back. Three words and it was all there, just below the surface of memory, still cold in his bones: black night in the forest, a sear of fire across his eyes, chilling wind and the smell of blood. The drums—a bodhran thundering against his arm, two more behind him. Screaming in the dark. The sudden shine of eyes and the stomach-clenching feel of a skull caving in.

"I killed one of them," he said abruptly. "Did you know that?"

Jamie hadn’t looked away and didn’t now; his mouth compressed for a moment, and he nodded.

"I didna see ye do it," he said. "But it was plain enough in your face, next day."

"I don’t wonder." Roger’s throat was tight and the words came out thick and gruff. He was surprised that Jamie had noticed—had noticed anything at all on that day other than Claire, once the fighting was over. The image of her, kneeling by a creek, setting her own broken nose by her reflection in the water, the blood streaking down over her bruised and naked body, came back to him with the force of a punch in the solar plexus.

"Ye never ken how it will be." Jamie lifted one shoulder and let it fall; he’d lost the lace that bound his hair, snagged by a tree branch, and the thick red strands stirred in the evening breeze. "A fight like that, I mean. What ye recall and what ye don’t. I remember everything about that night, though—and the day beyond it."

Roger nodded, but didn’t speak. It was true that Presbyterians had no sacrament of Confession—and he rather regretted that they didn’t; it was a useful thing to have in your pocket. Particularly, he supposed, if you led the sort of life Jamie had. But any minister knows the soul’s need to speak and be understood, and that he could give.

"I expect ye do," he said. "Do ye regret it, then? Telling the men to kill them all, I mean."

"Not for an instant." Jamie gave him a brief, fierce glance. "Do ye regret your part of it?"

"I—" Roger stopped abruptly. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t thought about it, but… "I regret that I had to," he said carefully. "Very much. But I’m sure in my own mind that I did have to."

Jamie’s breath came out in a sigh.

"Ye’ll know Claire was raped, I expect." It wasn’t a question, but Roger nodded. Claire hadn’t spoken of it, even to Brianna—but she hadn’t had to.

"The man who did it wasna killed, that night. She saw him alive last month, at Beardsley’s."

The evening breeze had turned chilly, but that wasn’t what raised the hairs on Roger’s forearms. Jamie was a man of precise speech—and he’d started this conversation with the word "confession." Roger took his time about replying.

"I’m thinking that ye’re not asking my opinion of what ye should do about it."

Jamie sat silent for a moment, dark against the blazing sky.

"No," he said softly. "I’m not."

"Grand-da! Look!" Jem and Germain were scrambling over the rocks and brush, each with a string of shimmering trout, dripping dark streaks of blood and water down the boys’ breeks, the swaying fish gleaming bronze and silver in the last of the evening light.

Roger turned back from the boys in time to see the flicker of Jamie’s eye as he glanced round at the boys, the sudden light on his face catching a troubled, inward look that vanished in an instant as he smiled and raised a hand to his grandsons, reaching out to admire their catch.

Jesus Christ, Roger thought. He felt as though an electric wire had run through his chest for an instant, small and sizzling. He was wondering if they were old enough yet. To know about things like this.

"We decided we got six each," Jemmy was explaining, proudly holding up his string and turning it so his father and grandfather could appreciate the size and beauty of his catch.

"And these are Fanny’s," Germain said, lifting a smaller string on which three plump trout dangled. "We decided she’d ha’ caught some, if she was here."

"That was a kind thought, lads," Jamie said, smiling. "I’m sure the lassie will appreciate it."

"Mmphm," said Germain, though he frowned a little. "Will she still be able to come fishin’ with us, Grand-pere? Mrs. Wilson said she wouldn’t, now she’s a woman."

Jemmy made a disgusted noise and elbowed Germain. "Dinna be daft," he said. "My mam’s a woman and she goes fishin’. She hunts, too, aye?"

Germain nodded, but looked unconvinced.

"Aye, she does," he admitted. "Mr. Crombie doesna like it, though, and neither does Heron."

"Heron?" Roger said, surprised. Hiram Crombie was under the impression that women should cook, clean, spin, sew, mind children, feed stock and keep quiet save when praying. But Standing Heron Bradshaw was a Cherokee who’d married one of the Moravian girls from Salem, and settled on the other side of the Ridge. "Why? The Cherokee women plant their own crops and I’m sure I’ve seen them catching fish with nets and fish-traps by the fields."

"Heron didna say about catching fish," Jem explained. "He says women canna hunt, though, because they stink o’ blood, and it drives the game away."

"Well, that’s true," Jamie said, to Roger’s surprise. "But only when they’ve got their courses. And even so, if she stays downwind…"

"Would a woman who smells o’ blood not draw bears or painters?" Germain asked. He looked a little worried at the thought.

"Probably not," Roger said dryly, hoping he was right. "And if I were you, I wouldn’t suggest any such thing to your Auntie. She might take it amiss."

Jamie made a small, amused sound and shooed the boys.

"Get on wi’ ye, lads. We’ve a few things yet to talk of. Tell your grannie we’ll be in time for supper, aye?"

They waited, watching ’til the boys were safely out of hearing. The breeze had died away now and the last slow rings on the water spread and flattened, disappearing into the gathering shadows. Tiny flies began to fill the air, survivors of the hatch.

"Ye did it, then?" Roger asked. He was wary of the answer; what if it wasn’t done, and Jamie wished his help in the matter?

But Jamie nodded, his broad shoulders relaxing.

"Claire didna tell me about it, ken. I saw at once that something was troubling her, o’ course…" A thread of rueful amusement tinged his voice; Claire’s glass face was famous. "But when I told her so, she asked me to let it bide, and give her time to think."

"Did you?"

"No." The amusement had gone. "I saw it was a serious thing. I asked my sister; she told me. She was wi’ Claire at Beardsley’s, aye? She saw the fellow, too, and wormed it out of Claire what the matter was.

"Claire said to me—when I made it clear I kent what was going on—that it was all right; she was trying to forgive the bastard. And thought she was makin’ progress with it. Mostly." Jamie’s voice was matter-of-fact, but Roger thought he heard an edge of regret in it.

"Do you…feel that you should have let her deal with it? It is a—a process, to forgive. Not a single act, I mean." He felt remarkably awkward, and coughed to clear his throat.

"I ken that," Jamie said, in a voice dry as sand. "Few men ken it better."

A hot flush of embarrassment burned its way up Roger’s chest and into his neck. He could feel it take him by the throat, and couldn’t speak at all for a moment.

"Aye," Jamie said, after a moment. "Aye, it’s a point. But I think it’s maybe easier to forgive a dead man than one who’s walkin’ about under your nose. And come to that, I thought she’d have an easier time forgiving me than him." He lifted one shoulder and let it fall. "And…whether she could bear the thought of the man living near us or not—I couldn’t."

Roger made a small sound of acknowledgment; there seemed nothing else useful to say.

Jamie didn’t move, or speak. He sat with his head slightly turned away, looking out over the water, where a fugitive light glimmered over the breeze-touched surface.

"It was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done," he said at last, very quietly.

"Morally, do you mean?" Roger asked, his own voice carefully neutral. Jamie’s head turned toward him, and Roger caught a blue flash of surprise as the last of the sun touched the side of his face.

"Och, no," his father-in-law said at once. "Only hard to do."

"Aye." Roger let the silence settle again, waiting. He could feel Jamie thinking, though the man didn’t move. Did he need to tell it to someone, re-live it and thus ease his soul by full confession? He felt in himself a terrible curiosity, and at the same time, a desperate wish not to hear. He drew breath and spoke abruptly.

"I told Brianna. That I’d killed Boble—and how. Maybe I shouldn’t have."

Jamie’s face was completely in shadow, but Roger could feel those blue eyes on his own face, fully lit by the setting sun. With an effort, he didn’t look down.

"Aye?" Jamie said, his voice calm, but definitely curious. "What did she say to ye? If ye dinna mind telling me, I mean."

"I—well. To tell the truth, the only thing I remember for sure is that she said, ‘I love you.’" That was the only thing he’d heard, through the echo of drums and the drumming of his own pulse in his ears. He’d told her kneeling, his head in her lap. She’d kept on saying it then; "I love you," her arms wrapping his shoulders, sheltering him with the fall of her hair, absolving him with her tears.

For a moment, he was back inside that memory, and came to himself with a start, realizing that Jamie had said something.

"What did you say?"

"I said—and how is it Presbyterians dinna think marriage is a sacrament?"

[end section]

Back to Diana’s Book 9 webpage.

Part of the text of this excerpt from Book 9 of the Outlander series of novels also appears in "Fishing."

This page was last updated on Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 10:29 p.m. by Diana’s Webmistress.