Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…
March 6th, 1988 is the day I began to write what would eventually become OUTLANDER. I meant to write a practice book, in order to learn how to write a novel. Once I knew how it all worked, I thought, I could write a real novel; one I meant to be published. But I didn’t mean to tell anyone what I was doing, let alone show it to anybody.
Things Happen, though, and here we all are, twenty-seven years and fourteen books and a lovely TV show later. Apparently I was right, when I thought (at the age of 8) that I was supposed to be a novelist. And so in celebration, here’s a much larger-than-usual chunk of Book 9 excerpts. Hope you enjoy them!
Posted on March 6, 2015:
In which, Fanny has just started her first menstrual period, and is more upset than might usually be the case, since to her, it’s the signal that she’s just become a marketable sexual commodity.
"Sweetheart," I said, more gently, and put a hand under her chin to lift her face. Her eyes met mine like a blow, their soft brown nearly black with fear. Her chin was rigid, her jaw set tight, and I took my hand away.
"You don’t really think that we intend you to be a whore, Fanny?" She heard the incredulousness in my voice, and blinked. Once. Then looked down again.
"I’m…not good for anything else," she said, in a small voice. "But I’m worth a lot of money—for…that." She waved a hand over her lap, in a quick, almost resentful gesture.
I felt as though I’d been punched in my own belly. Did she really think—but she clearly did. Must have thought so, all the time she had been living with us. She’d seemed to thrive at first, safe from danger and well-fed, with the boys as companions. But the last month or so, she’d seemed withdrawn and thoughtful, eating much less. I’d seen the physical signs and reckoned them as due to her sensing the imminent change; had prepared the emmenagogue herbs, to be ready. That was apparently the case, but obviously I hadn’t guessed the half of it.
"That isn’t true, Fanny," I said, and took her hand. She let me, but it lay in mine like a dead bird. "That’s not your only worth." Oh, God, did it sound as though she had another, and that’s why we had—
"I mean—we didn’t take you in because we thought you… you’d be profitable to us in some way. Not at all." She turned her face away, with an almost inaudible sniffing noise. This was getting worse by the moment. I had a sudden memory of Brianna as a young teenager, and spending hours in her bedroom, mired in futile reassurances — no, you aren’t ugly, of course you’ll have a boyfriend when it’s time, no, everybody doesn’t hate you — I hadn’t been good at it then, and clearly those particular maternal skills hadn’t improved with age.
"We took you because we wanted you, sweetheart," I said, stroking the unresponsive hand. "Wanted to take care of you." She pulled it away and curled up again, face in her pillow.
"Do, you didn." Her voice came thick, and she cleared her throat, hard. "William made Mr. Fraser take me."
I laughed out loud, and she turned her head from the pillow to look at me, surprised.
"Really, Fanny," I said. "Speaking as one who knows both of them rather well, I can assure you that no one in the world could make either one of those men do anything whatever against his will. Mr. Fraser is stubborn as a rock, and his son is just like him. How long have you known William?"
"Not…long," she said, uncertain. "But—but he tried to save J-Jane. She liked him." Sudden tears welled in her eyes and she turned her face back into the pillow.
"Oh," I said, much more softly. "I see. You’re thinking of her. Of Jane." Of course.
She nodded and put her face back in the pillow, small shoulders hunched and shaking. Her plait had unraveled and the soft brown curls fell away, exposing the white skin of her neck, slender as a stalk of blanched asparagus.
"It’th the only t-time I ever thaw her cry," she said, the words only half-audible between emotion and muffling.
"Jane? What was it?"
"Her firtht—first—time. Wif—with—a man. When she came back and gave the bloody towel to Mithess Seacrest. She did that, and then she crawled into bed with me and cried. I held huh and—and petted huh—bu—I couldn’t make her thtop.” She pulled her arms under her and shook with silent sobs.
"Sassenach?" Jamie’s voice came from the doorway, husky with sleep. "What’s amiss? I rolled over and found Jem in my bed, instead of you." He spoke calmly, but his eyes were fixed on Fanny’s shivering back. He glanced at me, one eyebrow raised, and moved his head slightly toward the door-jamb. Did I want him to leave?
I glanced down at Fanny and up at him with a helpless twitch of my shoulder, and he moved at once into the room, pulling up a stool beside Fanny’s bed. He noticed the blood-streaks at once and looked up at me again—surely this was my business?—but I shook my head, keeping a hand on Fanny’s back.
"Fanny’s missing her sister," I said, addressing the only aspect of things I thought might be dealt with effectively at the moment.
"Ah," Jamie said softly, and before I could stop him, had bent down and gathered her gently up into his arms. I stiffened for an instant, afraid that having a man touch her just now—but she turned into him at once, flinging her arms about his neck and sobbing into his chest.
He sat down, holding her on his knee, and I felt the unhappy tension in my own shoulders ease, seeing him smooth her hair and murmur things to her in a Gaidhlìg she didn’t speak, but clearly understood as well as a horse or dog might.
Fanny went on sobbing for a bit, but slowly calmed under his touch, only hiccupping now and then.
"I saw your sister just the once," he said softly. "Jane was her name, aye? Jane Eleanor. She was a bonny lass. And she loved ye dear, Frances. I ken that."
Fanny nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks, and I looked at the corner where Mandy lay on the trundle. She was dead to the world, though, thumb plugged securely into her mouth. Fanny got herself under control within a few seconds, though, and I wondered whether she had been beaten at the brothel for weeping or displaying violent emotion.
"She did it fuh me," she said, in tones of absolute desolation. "Killed Captain Harkness. And now she’th dead. It’th all my fault." And despite the whiteness of her clenched knuckles, more tears welled in her eyes. Jamie looked at me over her head, then swallowed to get his own voice under control.
"Ye would have done anything for your sister, aye?" he said, gently rubbing her back between the bony little shoulderblades.
"Yes," she said, voice muffled in his shoulder.
"Aye, of course. And she would ha’ done the same for you—and did. Ye wouldna have hesitated for a moment to lay down your life for her, and nor did she. It wasna your fault, a nighean."
"It was! I shouldn’t have made a fuss, I should have—oh, Janie!"
She clung to him, abandoning herself to grief. Jamie patted her and let her cry, but he looked at me over the disheveled crown of her head and raised his brows.
I got up and came to stand behind him, a hand on his shoulder, and in murmured French, acquainted him in a few words with the other source of Fanny’s distress. He pursed his lips for an instant, but then nodded, never ceasing to pet her and make soothing noises. The tea had gone cold, particles of rosemary and ground ginger floating on the murky surface. I took up the pot and cup and went quietly out to make it fresh.
Jemmy was standing in the dark just outside the door and I nearly crashed into him.
"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" I said, only just managing to say it in a whisper. "What are you doing here? Why aren’t you asleep?"
He ignored this, looking into the dim light of the bedroom and the humped shadow on the wall, a deeply troubled look on his face.
"What happened to Fanny’s sister, Grannie?"
I hesitated, looking down at him. He was only ten. And surely it was his parents’ place to tell him what they thought he should know. But Fanny was his friend—and God knew, she needed a friend she could trust.
"Come down with me," I said, turning him toward the stair with a hand on his shoulder. "I’ll tell you while I make more tea. And don’t bloody tell your mother I did."
I told him, as simply as I could, and omitting the things Fanny had told me about the late Captain Harkness’s habits.
"Do you know the word ‘whore’—er…’hoor,’ I mean?" I amended, and the frown of incomprehension relaxed.
"Sure. Germain told me. Hoors are ladies that go to bed with men they aren’t married to. Fanny’s not a hoor, though— was her sister?" He looked troubled at the thought.
"Well, yes," I said. "Not to put too fine a point on it. But women—or girls—who become whores do it because they have no other way to earn a living. Not because they want to, I mean."
He looked confused. "How do they earn money?"
"Oh. The men pay them to—er—go to bed with them. Take my word for it," I assured him, seeing his eyes widen in astonishment.
"I go to bed with Mandy and Fanny all the time," he protested. "And Germain, too. I wouldn’t pay them money for being girls!"
"Jeremiah," I said, pouring fresh hot water into the pot. "’Go to bed’ is a euphemism—do you know that word? It means saying something that sounds better than what you’re really talking about—for sexual intercourse."
"Oh, that," he said, his face clearing. "Like the pigs?"
"Rather like that, yes. Find me a clean cloth, will you? There should be some in the lower cupboard." I knelt, knees creaking slightly, and scooped the hot stone out of the ashes with the poker. It made a small hissing sound as the cold air of the surgery hit the hot surface.
"So," I said, reaching for the cloth he’d fetched me, and trying for as matter-of-fact a voice as could be managed, "Jane and Fanny’s parents had died, and they had no way to feed themselves, so Jane became a whore. But some men are very wicked…I expect you know that already, don’t you?" I added, glancing up at him, and he nodded soberly.
"Yes. Well, a wicked man came to the place where Jane and Fanny lived and wanted to make Fanny go to bed with him, even though she was much too young to do such a thing. And…er…Jane killed him."
I blinked at him, but it had been said with the deepest respect. I coughed, and began folding the cloth.
"It was very heroic of her, yes. But she—"
"How did she kill him?"
"With a knife," I said, a little tersely, hoping he wouldn’t ask for details. I knew them, thanks to Rachel and Lord John, and wished I didn’t.
"But the man was a soldier, and when the British army found out, they arrested Jane."
"Oh, Jesus," Jem said, in tones of awed horror. "Did they hang her, like they tried to hang Dad?"
I tried to think whether I should tell him not to take the Lord’s name in vain, but on the one hand, he clearly hadn’t meant it that way—and for another, I was a blackened pot in that particular regard.
"They meant to. She was alone, and very much afraid—and she…well, she killed herself, darling."
He looked at me for a long moment, face blank, then swallowed, hard.
"Did Jane go to Hell, Grannie?" he asked, in a small voice. "Is that why Fanny’s so sad?"
I’d wrapped the stone thickly in cloth; the heat of it glowed in the palms of my hands.
"No, sweetheart," I said, with as much conviction as I could muster. "I’m quite sure she didn’t. God would certainly understand the circumstances. No, Fanny’s just missing her sister."
He nodded, very sober.
"I’d miss Mandy, if she killed somebody and got—" He gulped at the thought. I was somewhat concerned to note that the notion of Mandy killing someone apparently seemed reasonable to him, but then…
"I’m quite sure nothing like that would ever happen to Mandy. Here." I gave him the wrapped stone. "Be careful with it."
We made our way slowly upstairs, trailing warm ginger steam, and found Jamie sitting beside Fanny on the bed, a small collection of things laid out on the quilt between them. He looked up at me, flicked an eyebrow at Jem, and then nodded at the quilt.
"Frances was just showing me a picture of her sister. Would ye let Mrs. Fraser and Jem have a look, a nighean?"
Fanny’s face was still blotched from crying, but she had herself more or less back in hand, and she nodded soberly, moving aside a little.
The small bundle of possessions she had brought with her was unrolled, revealing a pathetic little pile of items: a nit comb, the cork from a wine-bottle, two neatly-folded hanks of thread, one with a needle stuck through it, a paper of pins, and a few small bits of tawdry jewelry. On the quilt was a sheet of paper, much folded and worn in the creases, with a pencil drawing of a girl.
"One of the punters dwew—drew—it, one night in the salon," Fanny said, moving aside a little, so we could look.
It was no more than a sketch, but the artist had caught a spark of life. Jane had been lovely in outline, straight-nosed and with a delicate, ripe mouth, but there was neither flirtation nor demureness in her expression. She was looking half over her shoulder, half-smiling, but with an air of mild scorn in her look.
"She’s pretty, Fanny," Jemmy said, and came to stand by her. He patted her arm as he would have patted a dog, and with as little self-consciousness.
Jamie had given Fanny a handkerchief, I saw; she sniffed and blew her nose, nodding.
"This is all I have," she said, her voice hoarse as a young toad’s. "Just this and her wock—locket."
"This?" Jamie stirred the little pile gently with a big forefinger, and withdrew a small brass oval, dangling on a chain. "Is it a miniature of Jane, then, or maybe a lock of her hair?"
Fanny shook her head, taking the locket from him.
"No," she said. "It’s a picture of our muv-mother." She slid a thumbnail into the side of the locket and flicked it open. I bent forward to look, but the miniature inside was hard to see, shadowed as it was by Jamie’s body.
"May I?" She handed me the locket and I turned to hold it close to the candle. The woman inside had dark, somewhat curly hair like Fanny’s—and I thought I could make out a resemblance to Jane in the nose and set of chin, though it wasn’t a particularly skillful rendering.
Behind me, I heard Jamie say, quite casually, "Frances, no man will ever take ye against your will, while I live."
There was a startled silence, and I turned round to see Fanny staring up at him. He touched her hand, very gently.
"D’ye believe me, Frances?" he said quietly.
"Yes," she whispered, after a long moment, and all the tension left her body in a sigh like the east wind.
Jemmy leaned against me, head pressing my elbow, and I realized that I was just standing there, my eyes full of tears. I blotted them hastily on my sleeve, and pressed the locket closed. Or tried to; it slipped in my fingers and I saw that there was a name inscribed inside it, opposite the miniature.
"Faith," it said.
This excerpt was posted by Diana (as one of her Daily Lines) on her Facebook Page on March 6, 2015.
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