[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE Copyright © 2020 by Diana Gabaldon.]
“Historical friction,” she said. “There are all kinds of things—ideas, machines, tools, whatever—that were—are, I mean—discovered more than once. Mama said the hypodermic needle was independently invented by at least three different people, all around the same time, in different countries. But other things are invented or discovered and they just… sit. No one uses them. Or they’re lost, and then found again. For years—centuries, sometimes—until something happens, and suddenly it’s the right time, and whatever it is comes suddenly into its own, and spreads, and it’s common knowledge.
“Besides,” she added practically, nudging the bag with her foot, what harm could it do to loose a bastardized version of The Cat in the Hat on the eighteenth century?”
He laughed in spite of his uneasiness.
“Nobody would print that one. A story showing children being deliberately disobedient to their mother? And not suffering Dire Consequences for doing it?”
“Like I said. Not the right time for a book like that,” she said. “It wouldn”t… stick.” She’d got over the emotional breakdown altogether now –—or at least that”s what she looked like. Long red hair spilling loose down her back, face animated but not troubled, her eyes on the road and the horses’ bobbing heads.
“And then I have Jane,” she said, nodding at the bag and lowering her voice. “Speaking of dire consequences, poor girl.”
“Ja—oh, Fanny’s sister?” He remembered the drawing, a hasty pencil sketch on rough paper.
“I promised Fanny that I’d paint Jane,” Bree said, and frowned a little. “Make her more permanent. I couldn’t persuade Fanny to let me take her drawing, but she did let me copy it, so I’d have something to work from.”
“Poor girl. Girls, I should say.” Claire had told Brianna, after the uproar over Fanny’s getting her monthly, what had happened to Jane, and Bree had told him.
“Yes. And poor Willie, too. I don’t know if he was in love with Jane, or just felt responsible for her, but Mama said he showed up at her funeral, looking awful, with that huge horse. He gave Da the horse, for Fanny—he’d already given Fanny to him, to take care of—and then he just… left. They haven’t heard anything about him since.”
Roger nodded, but there wasn’t much to say. He’d met William, ninth Earl of Ellesmere, once, several years before, for roughly three minutes, on a quay in Wilmington. A teenager then, tall and thin as a rail—and with a striking resemblance to Bree, though he was dark-haired—but with a lot more confidence and bearing than he’d have expected from someone that age. He supposed that was one of the perquisites of being born (at least theoretically) to the hereditary aristocracy. You really did think the world—or a good part of it—belonged to you.
“Do you know where she was buried? Jane?” he asked, but she shook her head.
“In a private cemetery outside the city, is all. Why?”
He lifted one shoulder, briefly.
“I thought I’d maybe pay my respects. So I could tell Fanny I’d gone and said a prayer for her sister.”
She glanced at him, soft-eyed.
“That’s a really good thought. I tell you what; I’ll ask Lord John where it is—Mama said he arranged for Jane to be buried, so he’ll know where. Then you and I can go together. Do you think Fanny would like it if I made a sketch of the grave? Or would that be too—upsetting?”
“I think she’d like it.” He touched her shoulder, then smoothed the hair back from her face and bound it with his handkerchief. “You wouldn’t have anything edible in that bag, would you?”
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And thanks to Jo Graham for the lovely bee-at-work photo!
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