[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE Copyright © 2020 by Diana Gabaldon.]
Supper was simple, because there had been no one to stay at home and cook it during the day. I’d made a huge kettle of milky corn chowder in the morning, with onions, bacon and sliced potatoes to fill it out, and after the usual obsessive checking of hearth and coals, had covered the cauldron and left it to simmer, along with a prayer that the house would not burn down in our absence. There was bread from yesterday, and four cold apple pies for pudding, with a little cheese.
“’Snot a pudding,” Mandy had said, frowning when she heard me say that. “Issa pie!”
“True, darling,” I said. “It’s just an English manner of speech, to call all desserts ‘pudding’.”
“Because the English dinna ken any better,” Jamie told her.
“Says the Scot who has ‘creamed crud’ for his dessert,” I replied, making Jem and Mandy roll on the floor with laughter, repeating “creamed crud” to each other whenever they paused for breath.
Germain, who had been eating creamed curd for pudding since he was born, shook his head at them and sighed in a worldly fashion, glancing at Fanny to share his condescension. Fanny, who had likely not encountered anything beyond pie in the dessert line, looked confused.
“Regardless,” I said, ladling chowder into bowls. “Get the bread, will you please, Jem? Regardless,” I repeated, “it”s good to be able to sit down to supper, isn’t it? It was rather a long day,” I added, smiling at Roger and then at Rachel.
“Thee was wonderful, Roger,”Rachel said, smiling at him. “I hadn’t heard of line-singing before. Had thee, Ian?”
“Oh, aye. There was a wee Presbyterian kirk on Skye that I stopped by wi’ my Da once, when I went with him to buy a sheep. There’s nothing else to do on Skye on Sunday,” he explained.
“It seems familiar,” I remarked, shaking a large pat of cold butter out of its mold. “That kind of singing, I mean, not Skye. But I don’t know why it should.”
Roger smiled faintly. He couldn’t talk above a whisper, but happiness glowed in his eyes.
“African slaves,” he said, barely audible. “They do it. Call and response, it’s called sometimes. Did ye maybe… hear them at River Run?”
“Oh. Yes, perhaps,” I said, a little dubiously. “But it seems more… recent?” A lift of one dark eyebrow indicated that he took my meaning as to “recent.”
“Aye.” He took up his beer and took a deep swallow. “Aye. Black singers, then others… took it up. It’s one of—” he glanced at Fanny and then Rachel. “One of the roots you see, in, um, more modern music.”
Rock ’n roll, I supposed he meant, or possibly rhythm and blues—I was no kind of a music scholar.
“Speaking of music, Rachel, you have a beautiful voice,” Bree said, leaning across the table to wave a bit of bread under Oggy’s nose.
“I thank thee, Brianna,” Rachel said, and laughed. “So does the dog.” She took the bread and let Oggy squash it in his fist, he preferring to kill his food before eating it. “I was pleased that so many people chose to share our meeting—though I suppose it was mostly curiosity. Now that they know the terrible truth about Friends, they likely won’t come again.”
“What’s the terrible truth about Friends, Auntie Rachel?” Germain asked, fascinated.
“That we’re boring,” Rachel told him. “Did thee not notice?”
Return to my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE for links to information and more Daily Lines (excerpts).
And many thanks to Tanya Turner Barry for this lovely bumblebee on red clover (?).
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