• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Happy Mother’s Day!

2024-05-12-Dianas-kitchenSunday, May 12, 2024

To mothers of all ages and stages of relationship, you are the cement that holds your families together, and the blossoms that make them fragrant and beautiful.



[Excerpt from (Untitled) Book Ten, Copyright © 2024 Diana Gabaldon]

Davy let out a resounding belch and dribbled slightly.

“That it? Good.” Brianna deftly wiped the dribble with the end of her kerchief, then did up her buttons one-handed and stood up. They’d been sitting on a rock overlooking the creek, enjoying the momentary sense of solitude after the hullaballoo of the wedding. She could still hear the music and the muffled roar of talk, like distant surf, but it mingled with the rushing creek and lost its meaning.

“Do you think hullaballoo is a word now?” she asked Davy, hoisting him up onto her shoulder. “It was, in the sixties, where I came from. I’ll tell you all about it when you’re older. I think I heard Grandpa say “baloo” a few days ago, but I don’t know what he meant by it.”

“Gah,” said Davy agreeably.

“Right you are,” she said. “We’ll ask him. Where do you think he is? I saw him on the porch, but then he disappeared.”

She didn’t care that much about hullaballoos, from whichever century, but had it in mind to hand Davy to her father, who was frequently immobilized, whether by his knee or her mother, and thus the perfect parking place for a large, healthy infant while said infant’s mother had a few private moments. Privy first, then water. Lots of water. Nursing left her as thirsty as an island castaway, and she licked dry lips at thought of cold well-water.

They came down the slope toward the house, but she stopped to poke her head into the stable, in case her father should be there. He wasn’t there, but Fanny was, rubbing down a big bay horse with very dirty legs, and—to Brianna’s surprise—singing “Clementine” to him.

“Fed she duck-lings, on the wa-ter, every morrrning just at nine…. Hit her foot a-gainst a splin-ter, fell intooo the foaming brine…”

The horse appeared to be enjoying this; his ears were pointed forward and he bent his neck obligingly so that Fanny could reach to detangle his mane. He was quite a large horse.

“Ruby lips a-bove the wa-ter, blowing buuub-bles soft and fine…” Brianna joined the song, patting Davy’s back in rhythm. “Alas for me, I was no swim-mer, so I lost my Clementine.”

“Oh, my darlin, oh, my darlin, oh my DAR-LIN Clementine. Thou are lost, and gone for-ev-er, dreadful sor-reeee…. Clementine!” They finished together and dissolved in giggles.

“You have a really good voice, Fanny,” Bree said, recovering. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing before.”

“Oh. I, um…” Fanny blushed and shrugged, turning back to the horse’s mane to hide her face. “I—didn’t want to—I mean, I—I… don’t like people to notice me.”

“I see.” She did, and her heart squeezed a little. Most people on the Ridge had no idea that Fanny had grown up in a brothel. Bree imagined that being noticed in a brothel might be dangerous, especially for a very young girl. She let the subject drop, though, and brought Davy up closer to the horse’s head, though keeping a safe distance.

“See the horsie, baby?” she said to him. “Pretty horsie! Whose horsie is that, do you think? Does he have a name?” she added, glancing at Fanny, whose blush immediately grew deeper.

“His name ith—is—Trajan,” she blurted. “He’s William’s.”

“William…? Who—what, you don’t mean, William, err… Lord Ellesmere?”

“He won’t use that name anymore, he says.” Fanny’s cheeks were rosy, but no longer flaming. “I don’t know what name he wants, now, but I think he’s keeping William, at least.”

Bree waved that aside. Her heart was beating high, and Davy squirmed, trying to curl up into a ball. She hoicked him up to her shoulder and patted his back, moving carefully round the horse in order to get closer to Fanny.

“Do you know what he does want?” she asked, lowering her voice even though there was no one near enough to hear. “I mean, why is he here?”

Fanny shook her head.

“I don’t know. I just heard noises on the porch and when I came to look, there was William coming up the steps with Mr. Fraser. They went to the study, and your mother went with them. William asked me to look after Trajan.” There was an unmistakable note of pride in her voice.

“Wait—when did he tell you he wasn’t using his title anymore?”

The blush surged back, and Fanny bent to souse her rag in the bucket before returning to an energetic washing of Trajan’s hindquarters, which were heavily splashed with mud.

“Um. He didn’t. He didn’t tell me, I mean. I went back to the kitchen to get some more rags and I… heard him. In the study. Somebody was coming, though, and I had to go on.”

Bree felt deeply envious; she would have loved to eavesdrop on a conversation—the first conversation?—between her brother and their father. Still, excitement rose in her and her over-sensitive nipples hardened and left small wet spots on her blouse. Davy sniffed and made voracious growling noises, beginning to root, and she shifted him expertly, loosening the neck of her shift one-handed.

“You absolute wee pig,” she told him as she settled him at the breast again, and Fanny laughed.

“But he’s so sweet,” she protested.

“Pigs can be sw— Well, maybe not pigs. Little piglets, maybe. Ow! Don’t you dare bite me, you little…”

“But he doesn’t have any teeth!”

“Neither do snapping turtles,” Brianna said grimly. Her milk had let down, though, and her irritation eased as Davy settled contentedly again into his milky suckling.

“What does William look like? Was he wearing an army uniform?” She was dying to go down to the house and see him, but not with a baby clinging like a leech to one exposed, milk-engorged breast and the other leaking down her front.

Fanny shook her head.

“He looks like a tramp,” she said frankly. “Mother Abbott wouldn’t have let him in the back door of her house.”

“I imagine a brothel has higher standards than we do. Does he look healthy, though?”

Fanny’s wide, fair brow creased briefly.

“Not exactly,” she said. “He’s really thin. And I don’t think he slept much last night; his eyes are red and have dark circles under them.”

Brianna was more than curious—and more than a little uneasy, too, despite her delight at hearing of William’s presence.

“Something theri-serious must have happened, don’t you think?” Fanny stepped back a little, squinting at the horse, who was munching hay with single-minded concentration.

“I do think.” She eyed Fanny, who was now cleaning one of the horse’s back hooves as though it were a piece of valuable silver. No chance of her looking after Davy. “I tell you what—we’ll go find out and tell you.”

[end section]

Please visit my official Book Ten webpage for more excerpts and information about this new book.

Photo is mine, from my kitchen. Feel free to use it, if you like, but please add my name as photographer, if you do.

This excerpt was also posted on my official Facebook page on Sunday, May 12, 2024.