Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of my OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…
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"Hand me that, will you?" Amaranthus shifted the child expertly from one shoulder to the other and nodded toward another wadded cloth that lay on the ground near her feet. William picked it up gingerly, but it proved to be clean—for the moment.
"Hasn’t he got a nurse?" he asked, handing the cloth over.
"He did have," Amaranthus said, frowning slightly as she mopped the child’s face. "I sacked her."
"Drunkenness?" he asked, recalling what Lord John had said about the cook.
"Among other things. Drunk on occasion—too many of them—and dirty in her ways."
"Dirty as in filth, or…er…lacking fastidiousness in her relations with the opposite sex?"
She laughed, despite the subject.
"Both. Did I not already know you to be Lord John’s son, that question would have made it clear. Or, rather," she amended, gathering the banyan more closely around her, "the phrasing of it, rather than the question itself. All of the Greys—all those I’ve met so far—talk like that."
"I’m his lordship’s stepson," he replied equably. "Any resemblance of speech must therefore be a matter of exposure, rather than inheritance."
She made a small interested noise and looked at him, one fair brow raised. Her eyes were that changeable color between gray and blue, he saw. Just now, they matched the gray doves embroidered on her yellow banyan.
"That’s possible," she said. "My father says that a kind of finch learns its songs from its parents; if you take an egg from one nest and put it into another some miles away, the nestling will learn the songs of the new parents, instead of the ones who laid the egg."
Courteously repressing the desire to ask why anyone should be concerned with finches in any way, he merely nodded.
"Are you not cold, madam?" he asked. They were sitting in the sun, and the wooden bench was warm under his legs, but the breeze playing on the back of his neck was chilly, and he knew she wasn’t wearing anything but a shift under her banyan. The thought brought back a vivid recollection of his first sight of her, milky bosom on display, and he looked away, trying to think instantly of something else.
"What is your father’s profession?" he asked at random.
"He’s a naturalist—when he can afford to be," she replied. "And no, I’m not cold. It’s always much too hot in the house, and I don’t think the smoke from the hearth is good for Trevor; it makes him cough."
"Perhaps the chimney isn’t drawing properly. You said, ‘when he can afford to be.’ What does your father do when he cannot afford to pursue his… er… particular interests?"
"He’s a bookseller," she said, with a slight tone of defiance. "In [New York? New Jersey? Philadelphia?] That’s where I met Benjamin," she added, with a slight catch in her voice. "In my father’s shop." She turned her head slightly, watching to see what he made of this. Would he disapprove of the connection, knowing her now for a tradesman’s daughter? Not likely, he thought wryly. Under the circumstances.
"You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your husband, madam," he said. He wondered what she knew—had been told, rather—about Benjamin’s death, but it seemed indelicate to ask. And he’d best find out just what Papa and Uncle Hal knew about it, before he went trampling into unknown territory.
"Thank you." She looked away, her eyes lowered, but he saw her mouth—rather a nice mouth—compress in a way suggesting that her teeth were clenched.
"Bloody Continentals!" she said, with sudden violence. She lifted her head, and he saw that, far from being filled with tears, her eyes were sparking with rage. "Damn them and their nitwit philosophy! Of all the obstinate, muddle-headed, treasonous twaddle… I—" She broke off suddenly, perceiving his startlement.
"I beg your pardon, my lord," she said stiffly. "I… was overcome by my emotions."
"Very… suitable," he said awkwardly. "I mean—quite understandable, given the… um… circumstances." He glanced sideways at the house, but there was no sound of doors opening or voices raised in farewell. "Do call me William, though—we are cousins, are we not?"
She smiled fully at that. She had a lovely smile.
"So we are. You must call me Cousin Amaranthus, then—it’s a plant," she added, with the slightly resigned air of one frequently obliged to make this explanation. "Amaranthus palmeri. Of the family Amaranthaceae. Commonly known as pigweed."
Some Selected Facebook Comments:
Below are a few selected (and slightly edited) comments posted by FaceBook users about this excerpt from Book Nine and my answers:
How do you keep track of things to insert or cross reference later?
I think in shapes. When a new piece fits into the extant structure, it’s just… there. I won’t forget it. <g>
Please release another book. Soon. I have already read books 1-8— three times–in the last year! Plus all the Lord John books. More of those ,too, please.
Are you laboring under the delusion that I actually have a pile of books stashed away under my bed, that I dole out to the publisher at my whim? <g> I gotta write the book before it can be released— which is what I’m doing right now.
What is a "wheesht" and how do I hold it correctly?
You just keep your mouth shut and it will stay safely held…
What if I don’t like holding my wheesht?
Well… I guess you could go expel it on somebody else’s page, if you wanted to. <being helpful>
Thank you and poor child! "Pig weed—" what was her daddy thinking?
He was doubtless thinking that amaranthus is a beautiful, vivid and vital plant. Also very nutritious. <g>
Waiting with strongly bated breath, barely wearing my patience. (Presumably this person is talking about waiting for Book Nine to be completed.)
Thank you so much for spelling "bated" right!
In the middle of reading AN ECHO IN THE BONE and I’m torn as to continue reading. Should I finish up to Book Nine or go back and re-read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER: I want to remember everything when Season 2 of the Outlander TV series starts!
You have plenty of time. Book Nine won’t be out before 2017, I can tell you that much. <g>
I still want the answer to "dirty in her ways" that William asked. How so? Ha!
Well, Amaranthus answered that: "Both." I.e., a slattern and a slut.
I get dangerously bradycardic when I see Daily Lines (excerpts) from Book Nine. Keep them coming, Diana!
Your heart slows down? Interesting reaction. <g> That’s what sea mammals do when diving deep.
I thought Hal and John said they didn’t believe Benjamin to be dead and were headed to NY! Did they not say anything to the wife about that? She and William are speaking as if it’s been confirmed Benjamin is dead.
Fuirich agus chi thu… ("Wait and see" in Gaelic…)
Thank you, love this excerpt from Book Nine. Thanks for the Bartrams, too. I’d like to look through your books and research materials sometimes. You dig up some interesting stuff.
Most of my research collection is cataloged on LibraryThing.com and is publicly accessible. Just go there and type my name in the search box and you’ll see all my stuff (though you can then sort by keys like "herbal," "medicine," "politics," etc.).
Image Information: Image is of Amaranthus Palmeri is from Wikipedia. For some interesting information about pigweeds my Webmistress suggests its entry on the American Indian Health and Diet Project pages.
This excerpt from Book Nine was also posted on my Facebook page on December 4, 2015.
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