Ian’s cabin was charming. Not that it was markedly different in form from any other mountain cabin Brianna had ever seen, but it was sited in the midst of an aspen grove, and the fluttering leaves broke the sunlight into a flurry of light and shadow, so that the cabin had an air of magic about it—as though it might disappear into the trees altogether if you looked away.
Four goats and two kids poked their heads over the fence of their pen and started a congenial racket of greeting, but no one came out to see who the visitors were.
“They’ve gone somewhere,” Jamie remarked, squinting at the house. “Is that a note on the door?”
It was; a scrap of paper pinned to the door with a long thorn, with a line of incomprehensible writing that Bree finally recognized as Gaelic.
“Is Young Ian’s wife a Scot?” she asked, frowning at the words. The only ones she could make out were—she thought—“MacCree” and “goat.”
“Nay, it’s from Jenny,” her father said, whipping out his spectacles and scanning the note. “She says she and Rachel are away to a quilting and if Ian comes home before they do, will he milk the goats and set half the milk aside for cheese.”
As though hearing their names called, a chorus of loud mehh’s came from the goat pen.
“Evidently Ian’s not home yet, either,”Brianna observed. “Do they need to be milked now, do you think? I probably remember how.”
Her father smiled at the thought, but shook his head. “Nay, Jenny will ha’ stripped them no more than a few hours ago—they’ll do fine until the evening.”
Until that moment, she’d been idly supposing “Jenny” to be the name of a hired girl—but hearing the tone in which Jamie had said it, she blinked.
“Jenny. Your sister Jenny?” she said, incredulous. “She’s here?”
He looked mildly startled.
“Aye, she is. I’m sorry, lass, I never stopped to think ye didna ken that. She—wait.” He lifted a hand, looking at her intently. “The letters. We wrote—well, Claire mostly wrote them—but—”
“We got them.” She felt breathless, the same feeling she’d had when Roger had brought back the wooden box with Jemmy’s full name burnt into the lid, and they’d opened it to find the letters. And the overwhelming sense of relief, joy, and sorrow, when she opened the first letter to see the words, “We are alive…”.
The same feeling swept through her now, and tears took her unaware, so that everything around her flickered and blurred, as though the cabin and her father and she herself might be about to disappear altogether, dissolved into the shimmering light of the aspen trees. She made a small choking sound, and her father’s arm came round her, holding her close.
“We never thought we should see ye again,” he whispered into her hair, his own voice choked. “Never, a leannan. I was afraid—so afraid ye hadna reached safety, that… ye’d died, all of ye, lost in—in there. And we’d never know.”
“We couldn’t tell you.” She lifted her head from his shoulder and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. “But you could tell us. Those letters… knowing you were alive. I mean…” She stopped suddenly, and blinking away the last of the tears, saw Jamie look away, blinking back his own.
“But we weren’t,” he said softly. ”We were dead. When ye read those letters.”
“No, you weren’t,” she said fiercely, gripping his hand. “I wouldn’t read the letters all at once. I spaced them out—because as long as there were still unopened letters… you were still alive.”
“None of it matters, lass,” he said at last, very softly. He raised her hand and kissed her knuckles, his breath warm and light on her skin. “Ye’re here. So are we. Nothing else matters at all.”
[Thank you to Beverley Elkington and Melissa Tovgaard for the lovely bee!]
This excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE is Copyright © 2018 by Diana Gabaldon, all rights reserved. It was also posted on my official Facebook page on November 23, 2018.
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