This is the Third Sunday of Advent, when we pause in our serious reflections and take thought and give thanks for the happiness in our lives and souls and the approaching hope and joy of Christmas. This Sunday is also called “Gaudete Sunday,” which means “Rejoicing Sunday.”
(And to add to our sense of rejoicing, a Youtube video of Michael McGlynn’s most recent arrangement/performance of “Gaudete (Christus est natus),” one of my favorite pieces of Christmas music.)
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WE WERE LUCKY. The rain held off, and shredding clouds revealed a silver moon, rising lopsided but luminous over the slope of Black Mountain; suitable illumination for an intimate family wedding.
I had met David Caldwell, though I hadn’t recalled it until I saw him; a small but immensely personable gentleman, very tidy in his dress, despite camping in the open for a week. Jamie knew him, too, and respected him. That didn’t prevent a certain tightness of expression as the minister came into the firelight, his worn prayer book clasped in his hands, but I nudged Jamie warningly, and he at once altered his expression to one of inscrutability. I saw Roger glance once in our direction, then turn back to Bree. There might have been a slight smile at the corner of his mouth, or it could have been only the effect of the shadows. Jamie exhaled strongly through his nose, and I nudged him again.
“You had your way over the baptism,” I whispered. He lifted his chin slightly. Brianna glanced in our direction, looking slightly anxious.
“I havena said a word, have I?”
“It’s a perfectly respectable Christian marriage.”
“Did I say it was not?”
“Then look happy, damn you!” I hissed. He exhaled once more, and assumed an expression of benevolence one degree short of outright imbecility.
“Better?” he asked, teeth clenched in a genial smile. I saw Duncan Innes turn casually toward us, start, and turn hastily away, murmuring something to Jocasta, who stood near the fire, white hair shining, and a blindfold over her damaged eyes to shield them from the light. Ulysses, standing behind her, had in fact put on his wig in honor of the ceremony; it was all I could see of him in the darkness, hanging apparently disembodied in the air above her shoulder. As I watched, it turned sideways, toward us, and I caught the faint shine of eyes beneath it.
“Who that, Grand-mère?” Germain, escaped as usual from parental custody, popped up near my feet, pointing curiously at the Reverend Caldwell.
“That’s a minister, darling. Auntie Bree and Uncle Roger are getting married.”
“Ou qu’on va minster?” I drew a deep breath, but Jamie beat me to it.
“It’s a sort of priest, but not a proper priest.”
“Bad priest?” Germain viewed the Reverend Caldwell with substantially more interest.
“No, no,” I said. “He’s not a bad priest at all. It’s only that… well, you see, we’re Catholics, and Catholics have priests, but Uncle Roger is a Presbyterian—”
“That’s a heretic,” Jamie put in helpfully.
“It is not a heretic, darling, Grand-père is being funny—or thinks he is. Presbyterians are…” Germain was paying no attention to my explanation, but instead had tilted his head back, viewing Jamie with fascination.
“Why Grand-père is making faces?”
“We’re verra happy,” Jamie explained, expression still fixed in a rictus of amiability.
“Oh.” Germain at once stretched his own extraordinarily mobile face into a crude facsimile of the same expression—a jack-o’-lantern grin, teeth clenched and eyes popping. “Like this?”
“Yes, darling,” I said, in a marked tone. “Just like that.”
Marsali looked at us, blinked, and tugged at Fergus’s sleeve. He turned, squinting at us.
“Look happy, Papa!” Germain pointed to his gigantic smile. “See?”
Fergus’s mouth twitched, as he glanced from his offspring to Jamie. His face went blank for a moment, then adjusted itself into an enormous smile of white-toothed insincerity. Marsali kicked him in the ankle. He winced, but the smile didn’t waver.
Brianna and Roger were having a last-minute conference with Reverend Caldwell, on the other side of the fire. Brianna turned from this, brushing back her loose hair, saw the phalanx of grinning faces, and stared, her mouth slightly open. Her eyes went to me; I shrugged helplessly.
Her lips pressed tight together, but curved upward irrepressibly. Her shoulders shook with suppressed laughter. I felt Jamie quiver next to me.
Reverend Caldwell stepped forward, a finger in his book at the proper place, put his spectacles on his nose, and smiled genially at the assemblage, blinking only slightly when he encountered the row of leering countenances.
He coughed, and opened his Book of Common Worship.
“Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God…”
Copyright © by Diana Gabaldon. All Rights Reserved.
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