This excerpt DOES contain spoilers from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER series. You have been warned…
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William carried his pistol loaded, but not primed in case of accident. He took an instant to prime it now, thrusting it back into its holster before walking around the corner of the house.
It was Indians—or one, at least. A half-naked man squatted in the shade of a huge beech tree, tending a small firepit covered with damp burlap; William could smell the sharp scent of fresh-cut hickory logs, mingled with the tang of blood and char. The Indian—he looked young, though large and very muscular—had his back to William and was deftly stripping the carcass of a small hog, slicing off ragged strips of meat and tossing them into a pile on a flattened burlap sack that lay beside the fire.
"Hallo, there," William said, raising his voice. The man looked round, blinking against the smoke and waving it out of his face. He rose slowly, the knife he’d been using still in his hand, but William had spoken pleasantly enough, and the stranger wasn’t menacing. He also wasn’t a stranger. He stepped out of the tree’s shadow, the sunlight hit his hair, and William felt a jolt of astonished recognition.
So did the young man, by the look on his face.
"Lieutenant?" he said, disbelieving. He looked William quickly up and down, registering the lack of uniform, and his big dark eyes fixed on William’s face. "Lieutenant…Lord Ellesmere?"
"I used to be. Mr. Cinnamon, isn’t it?" He couldn’t help smiling as he spoke the name, and the other’s mouth twisted wryly in acknowledgement. The young man’s hair was no more than an inch long, but only shaving it off entirely would have disguised either its distinctive deep reddish-brown color or its exuberant curliness. A mission orphan, he owed his name to it.
"John Cinnamon, yes. Your servant…sir." The erstwhile scout gave him a presentable half-bow, though the "sir" was spoken with something of a question.
"William Ransom. Yours, sir," William said, smiling, and thrust out his hand. John Cinnamon was a couple of inches shorter than himself, and a couple of inches broader; the scout had grown into himself in the last two years and possessed a very solid hand-shake.
"I trust you’ll pardon my curiosity, Mr. Cinnamon—but how the devil do you come to be here?" William asked, letting go. He’d last seen John Cinnamon two years before, in Canada, where he’d spent much of a long, cold winter hunting and trapping in company with the half-Indian scout, who was near his own age.
He wondered briefly if Cinnamon had come in search of him, but that was absurd. He didn’t think he’d ever mentioned Mount Josiah to the man—and even if he had, Cinnamon couldn’t possibly have expected to find him here.
"Ah." To William’s surprise, a slow flush washed Cinnamon’s broad cheekbones. "I—er—I…well, I’m on my way south." The flush grew deeper.
William cocked an eyebrow. While it was true that Virginia was south of Quebec and that there was a good deal of country souther still, Mount Josiah wasn’t on the way to anywhere. No roads led here. He had himself come upriver on a barge, then obtained a small canoe in Richmond and paddled on above the Breaks, that stretch of falls and turbulent water where the land suddenly collapsed upon itself. He’d seen perhaps three people during his time above the Breaks—all of them headed the other way.
Suddenly, though, Cinnamon’s wide shoulders relaxed and the look of wariness was erased by relief.
"In fact, I came to see my friend," he said, and nodded toward the house. William turned quickly, to see another Indian picking his way through the raspberry brambles littering what used to be a small croquet lawn.
"Manoke!" he said. Then shouted "Manoke!", making the older man look up. The older Indian’s face lighted with joy, and a sudden uncomplicated happiness washed through William’s heart, cleansing as spring rain.
The Indian was lithe and spare as he’d always been, his face a little more lined. His hair smelt of woodsmoke when William embraced him, and the gray in it was the same soft color, but it was still thick and coarse as ever—he could see that easily; he was looking down on it from above, Manoke’s cheek pressed into his shoulder.
"What did you say?" he asked, releasing Manoke.
"I said, ‘My, how you have grown, boy,’" Manoke said, grinning up at him. "Do you need food?"
Back to Diana’s Book Nine Webpage.
Diana posted this excerpt as one of her "Daily Lines" on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, on her Facebook page.
This webpage was last updated on Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 10:37 p.m. (PT) by Diana’s Webmistress.