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“Thee would make a good Friend, thee knows,” Rachel remarked, holding back a laurel branch for her mother-in-law, who was burdened by a large basket of quilting. Rachel herself was burdened with Oggy, who had fallen asleep in the sling she carried him in.
Janet Murray gave her a sharp look, and made what Claire had privately described to Rachel as a Scottish noise, this being a mingled snort and gargling sound that might indicate anything from mild amusement or approval to contempt, derision, or an indication of impending forcible action. At the moment, Rachel thought her mother-in-law was amused, and smiled herself.
“Thee is forthright and direct,” she pointed out. “And honest. Or at least I suppose thee to be,” she added, slightly teasing. “I can’t say I have ever caught thee in a lie.”
“Wait ’til ye’ve kent me a bit longer, lass, before ye make judgements like that,” Jenny advised her. “I’m a fine wee liar, when the need arises. What else, though?” Her dark blue eyes creased a little—definitely amusement. Rachel smiled back, and thought for a moment, threading her way over a steep patch of gravel where the trail had washed out, then reaching back to take the basket.
“Thee is compassionate. Kind. And fearless,” she said, watching Jenny come down, half-sliding and grabbing branches to keep erect.
Her mother-in-law’s head turned sharply, blue eyes wide.
“Fearless?” she said, incredulous. “Me?” She made a noise that Rachel would have spelled as “Psssht.” “I’ve been scairt to the bone since I was ten years old, a leannan. But ye get used to it, ken?” She took back the basket, and Rachel hoisted Oggy, whose weight had doubled the moment he fell asleep, into a more secure position.
“What happened when thee was ten?” she asked, curious.
“My mither died,” Jenny answered. Her expression and voice were both matter-of-fact, but Rachel could hear bereavement in it, plain as the high, thin call of a hermit thrush.
“Mine died when I was born,” Rachel said, after a long pause. “I can’t say that I miss her, as I never knew her—though of course…”
“They say ye canna miss what ye never had, but they’re wrong about that one,” Jenny said, and touched Rachel’s cheek with the palm of her hand, small and warm. “Watch where ye’re walkin’, lass. It’s slick underfoot.”
“Yes.” Rachel kept her eyes on the ground, striding wide to avoid a muddy patch where a tiny spring bubbled up. “I dream, sometimes. There’s a woman, but I don’t know who she is. Perhaps it’s my mother. She seems kind, but she doesn’t say much. She just looks at me.”
“Does she look like ye, lass?”
Rachel shrugged, balancing Oggy with a hand under his bottom.
“She has dark hair, but I can’t ever remember her face, when I wake up.”
“And ye wouldna ken what she looked like, alive.” Jenny nodded, looking at something behind her own eyes. “I kent mine—and if ye ever want to know what she looked like, just go and have a keek at Brianna, for she’s Ellen MacKenzie Fraser to the life—though a wee bit bigger.”
“I’ll do that,” Rachel assured her. She found her new cousin-in-law slightly intimidating, though Ian clearly loved her. “Scared, though—and thee said thee has been frightened ever since?” She didn’t think she’d ever met someone less frightened than Janet Murray, whom she’d seen only yesterday face down a huge raccoon on the cabin’s porch, driving it off with a broom and a Scottish execration, in spite of the animal’s enormous claws and menacing aspect.
Jenny glanced at her, surprised, and changed the heavy basket from one arm to the other with a small grunt as the trail narrowed.
“Oh, no scairt for myself, a nighean, I dinna think I’ve ever worrit about bein’ killed or the like. No, scairt for them. Scairt I wouldna be able to manage, to take care o’ them.”
“Jamie and Da,” Jenny said, frowning a little at the squashy ground under her feet. It had rained hard the night before, and even the open ground was muddy. “I didna ken how to take care of them. I kent well I couldna fill my mother’s place for either one. See, I thought they’d die wi’ out her.”
And you’d be left entirely alone, Rachel thought. Wanting to die, too, and not knowing how. It does seem much easier for men; I wonder why? Do they not think anyone needs them?
“Thee managed, though,” she said, and Jenny shrugged.
“I put on her apron and made their supper. That was all I kent to do. Feed them.”
“I’d suppose that was the most important thing.” She bent her head and brushed the top of Oggy’s cap with her lips. His mere presence made her breasts tingle and ache. Jenny saw that, and smiled, in a rueful sort of way.
“Aye. When ye ha’ bairns, there’s that wee time when ye really are all they need. And then they leave your arms and ye’re scairt all over again, because now ye ken all the things that could harm them, and you not able to keep them from it.”
[Thank you to Michelle Valdemar for the lovely bee on what looks like wild carnations!]
Selected Social Media Comments:
Michele S.G. commented: Ah motherhood. The most wonderful rewarding and heartbreaking experience. I cried reading Jenny’s description of spending your life scared. Not for yourself but your family. That is my life. But I would never change it.
Although Jenny as a Friend? Apparently Rachel didn’t know her very well yet.
Diana responded: Maybe you don’’ know Friends very well. <g>
Terrance K.D. said: I love you and your talent. I patiently await the completion of the next installment. I completely understand if you are frustrated with your readers at times but, they love your books as I do. This whole virus has shown how precious time is to everyone. I have lived with your books to see me thru rough times these past few years and I just want to say thank you, Diana.
Diana responded: Thank you, Terrance! That’s so kind of you. <smile>
Luisa D. commented: Diana, being able to read this book during this crisis would bring so much joy to so many…. can’t we hurry this along??? I really need lose myself ….Stay safe everyone and for gods sake stay home!
Diana responded: In a word, no.
Retha M. said: That’s the first time I’ve seen Jenny Murray referred to as Janet! I don’t remember seeing her called so in the books, am I wrong!
Diana responded: Janet is her formal, christened name. Just like Jamie’s formal name is James. Scots have a major tendency to nickname people. <g>
Joseph D. said: Is it ever going to be published or a new format whereby you read it in little excerpts?
Diana responded: You think you’re being funny…. <g>
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 Michelle Valdemar for the lovely bee on what looks like wild carnations!
You may share the link to this excerpt, but please do not copy and paste the entire text and post it elsewhere. Thank you. -Diana
This excerpt (“Daily Lines”) was also posted on my official Facebook page on Friday, April 3, 2020.