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  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

“Jesuit Bark”

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2021-10-01-bees-picBy midafternoon, I’d made great progress with my medicaments, treated three cases of poison ivy rash, a broken toe (caused by its owner kicking a mule in a fit of temper), and a raccoon bite (non-rabid; the hunter had knocked the coon out of a tree, thought it was dead, and went to pick it up, only to discover that it wasn’t. The raccoon was mad, but not in any infectious sense).

Jamie, though, had done much better. People had come up to the house site all day, a steady trickle of neighborliness and curiosity. The women had stayed to chat with me about the MacKenzies and the men had wandered off through the site with Jamie, returning with promises to come and lend a day’s labor here and there.

“Why don’t you sit down for a bit?” I suggested, eyeing his leg. He was limping noticeably and the leg was a vivid patchwork of red and purple, demarcated by the black stitches of my repair job. “Amy’s left us a jug of beer.”

“Perhaps a wee bit later,” he said. “What’s that ye’re making, Sassenach?”

“I’m going to make up some gallberry ointment for Lizzie Beardsley.”

“Are ye out of the Jesuit bark, Sassenach?” He lifted his chin in the direction of the open medicine chest I’d set on the ground near him. “Do ye not use that for Lizzie’s tonic?”

“I do,” I said, rather surprised that he’d noticed. “I used the last of it three weeks ago, though, and haven’t heard of anyone going to Wilmington or New Bern who might get me more.”

“Did ye mention it to Roger Mac?”

“No. Why him?” I asked, puzzled.

Jamie leaned back against the cornerstone, wearing one of those overtly patient expressions that’s meant to indicate the person addressed is not being particularly bright. I snorted and flicked a gallberry at him. He caught it and examined it critically.

“Is it edible?”

“Amy says bees like the flowers,” I said dubiously, pouring a large handful of the dark-purple berries into my mortar. “But there’s very likely a reason why they’re called gallberries.”

“Ah.” He tossed it back at me, and I dodged. “Ye told me yourself, Sassenach, that Roger Mac said to ye yesterday that he meant to come back to the ministering. So,” he went on patiently, seeing no hint of enlightenment on my face, “what would ye do first, if that was your aim?”

I scooped a large glob of pale-yellow bear grease from its pot into the mortar, part of my mind debating whether to add a decoction of willow bark, while the rest considered Jamie’s question.

“Ah,” I said in turn, and pointed my pestle at him. “I’d go round to all the people who’d been part of my congregation, so to speak, and let them know that Mack the Knife is back in town.”

He gave me a concerned look, but then shook his head, dislodging whatever image I’d just given him.

“Ye would,” he said. “And maybe introduce yourself to the folk who’ve come to the Ridge since ye left.”

“And within a couple of days, everyone on the Ridge—and probably half the brethren’s choir in Salem—would know about it.”

He nodded amiably. “Aye. And they’d all ken that ye need Jesuit bark, and ye’d likely get it within the month.”

Visit (or return to) my GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE webpage for more excerpts and information on my new book.

Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright © Diana Gabaldon 2021. All rights reserved. Please do not copy and repost this excerpt elsewhere; instead share the link to this blog post. Thank you.

And many thanks to Lisa LeVasseur for the lovely bee photo!

This excerpt (aka “Daily Lines”) was posted on my official Facebook page on Saturday, October 1, 2021.