I had made up my mind what to do about Denny within moments of shouting “Pig-headed Scot!” at Jamie, but the ensuing conversation with Fanny had momentarily driven the matter out of my mind, and what with one thing and another, it was late the next afternoon before I managed to find Brianna alone.
Sean McHugh and his two biggest lads had come in the morning—with their hammers—to help with the framing of the second story; Jamie and Roger had been up there with them, and the effect of five large men armed with hammers was much like that of a platoon of overweight woodpeckers marching in close formation overhead. They”d been at it all morning—causing everyone else to flee the house—but had broken for a late lunch down by the creek, and I’d seen Bree go back inside with Mandy.
I found her in my rudimentary surgery, sitting in the late sun that fell through the big window, the largest window in the New House. There was no glass in it yet—there might not be glass before spring, if then—but the flood of unobstructed afternoon light was glorious, glowing from the new yellow-pine boards of the floor, the soft butternut of Bree’s homespun skirt and the fiery nimbus of her hair, half-bound in a long, loose plait.
She was drawing, and watching her absorbed in the paper pinned to her lapdesk, I felt a deep envy of her gift—not for the first time. I would have given a lot to be able to capture what I saw now, Brianna, bronze and fire in the deep clear light, head bent as she watched Mandy on the floor, chanting to herself as she built an edifice of wooden blocks and the small, heavy glass bottles I used for tinctures and dried herbs.
“What are you thinking, Mama?”
“What did you say?” I looked up at Bree, blinking, and her mouth curled up.
“I said,” she repeated patiently, “what are you thinking? You have that look.”
“Which look is that?” I asked warily. It was an article of faith amongst the members of my family that I couldn’t keep secrets; that everything I thought was visible on my face. They weren’t entirely right, but they weren’t completely wrong, either. What never occurred to them was just how transparent they were to me.
Brianna tilted her head to one side, eyes narrowed as she examined my face. I smiled pleasantly, putting out a hand to intercept Mandy as she hurtled past me, three medicine bottles in hand.
“You can’t take Grannie’s bottles outside, sweetheart,” I said, removing them deftly from her chubby grasp. “Grannie needs them to put medicine in.”
“But I’m gonna catch leeches wif Jemmy and Aidan and Germain!”
“You couldn’t get even one leech into a bottle that size,” I said, standing up and placing the bottles on a shelf out of reach. I scanned the next shelf down and found a slightly chipped pottery bowl with a lid.
“Here, take this.” I wrapped a small linen towel around the bowl and tucked it into the pocket of her pinafore. “Be sure to put in a little mud—a little mud, all right? No more than a pinch—and some of the waterweed you find the leeches in. That will keep them happy.”
I watched her trot out the door, black curls bouncing, then braced myself and turned back to Bree.
“Well, if you must know, I was thinking how much I should tell you.”
She laughed, though with sympathy.
“That’s the look, all right. You always look like a heron staring into the water when you have something you can’t quite decide whether to tell somebody.”
“Beady-eyed and intent,” she explained. “A contemplative killer. I’ll draw you doing it one of these days, so you can see.”
“Contemplative… I’ll take your word for it. I don’t think you’ve ever met Denzell Hunter, have you?” She shook her head.
“No. Ian mentioned him once or twice, I think—a Quaker doctor? Isn’t he Rachel’s brother?”
“That’s him. To keep it to the essentials for the moment, he’s a wonderful doctor, a good friend of mine, and besides being Rachel’s brother, he’s married to the daughter of the Duke of Pardloe—who happens to be Lord John Grey’s elder brother.”
“Lord John?” Her face, already glowing with light, broke into a brilliant smile. “My favorite person—outside the family. Have you heard from him? How is he?”
“Fine, to the best of my knowledge. I saw him briefly in Savannah a few months ago—the British army is still there, so it’s likely he is, too.” I’d thought out what to say, in hopes of avoiding anything awkward, but a script is not a conversation. “I was thinking that you might write to him.”
“I suppose I might,” she said, tilting her head and looking at me sideways, one red brow raised. “Right this minute?”
[Excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Copyright © 2020 Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.]
Return to my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE for links to information and more Daily Lines (excerpts).
Thank you to Carol Hill, for the lovely Parisian bee on white hollyhocks!
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This excerpt (“Daily Lines”) was also posted on my official Facebook page on Monday, March 13, 2020.