The Fiery Cross

Read The Fiery Cross for Free Online

Book: Read The Fiery Cross for Free Online
Authors: Diana Gabaldon
glistening strand of saliva from Jemmy’s chin before it could reach Jamie’s shirt. “Starting a new tooth, are we?”
    “I’ve plenty of teeth,” Jamie assured me, “and so have you, so far as I can see. As to what Hayes may want with me, I canna say for sure. And I dinna mean to find out before I must, either.” He cocked one ruddy eyebrow at me, and I laughed.
    “Oh, a certain flexibility in that word ‘convenient,’ is there?”
    “I didna say it would be convenient for
him
,” Jamie pointed out. “Now, about your petticoat, Sassenach, and why you’re scampering about the forest bare-arsed—Duncan,
a charaid
!” The wry look on his face melted into genuine pleasure at sight of Duncan Innes, making his way toward us through a small growth of bare-limbed dogwood.
    Duncan clambered over a fallen log, the process made rather awkward by his missing left arm, and arrived on the path beside us, shaking water droplets from his hair. He was already dressed for his wedding, in a clean ruffled shirt and starched linen stock above his kilt, and a coat of scarlet broadcloth trimmed in gold lace, the empty sleeve pinned up with a brooch. I had never seen Duncan look so elegant, and said so.
    “Och, well,” he said diffidently. “Miss Jo did wish it.” He shrugged off the compliment along with the rain, carefully brushing away dead needles and bits of bark that had adhered to his coat in the passage through the pines.
    “Brrr! A gruesome day,
Mac Dubh
, and no mistake.” He looked up at the sky and shook his head. “Happy the bride the sun shines on; happy the corpse the rain falls on.”
    “I do wonder just how delighted you can expect the average corpse to be,” I said, “whatever the meteorological conditions. But I’m sure Jocasta will be quite happy regardless,” I added hastily, seeing a look of bewilderment spread itself across Duncan’s features. “And you too, of course!”
    “Oh . . . aye,” he said, a little uncertainly. “Aye, of course. I thank ye, ma’am.”
    “When I saw ye coming through the wood, I thought perhaps Corporal MacNair was nippin’ at your heels,” Jamie said. “You’re no on your way to see Archie Hayes, are you?”
    Duncan looked quite startled.
    “Hayes? No, what would the Lieutenant want wi’ me?”
    “You were in Hillsborough in September, aye? Here, Sassenach, take this wee squirrel away.” Jamie interrupted himself to hand me Jemmy, who had decided to take a more active interest in the proceedings and was attempting to climb his grandfather’s torso, digging in his toes and making loud grunting noises. The sudden activity, however, was not Jamie’s chief motive for relieving himself of the burden, as I discovered when I accepted Jemmy.
    “Thanks a lot,” I said, wrinkling my nose. Jamie grinned at me, and turned Duncan up the path, resuming their conversation.
    “Hmm,” I said, sniffing cautiously. “Finished, are you? No, I thought not.” Jemmy closed his eyes, went bright red, and emitted a popping noise like muffled machine-gun fire. I undid his wrappings sufficiently to peek down his back.
    “Whoops,” I said, and hastily unwound the blanket, just in time. “
What
has your mother been feeding you?”
    Thrilled to have escaped his swaddling bands, Jemmy churned his legs like a windmill, causing a noxious yellowish substance to ooze from the baggy legs of his diaper.
    “Pew,” I said succinctly, and holding him at arm’s length, headed off the path toward one of the tiny rivulets that meandered down the mountainside, thinking that while I could perhaps do without such amenities as indoor plumbing and motorcars, there were times when I sincerely missed things like rubber pants with elasticated legs. To say nothing of toilet rolls.
    I found a good spot on the edge of the little stream, with a thick coating of dead leaves. I knelt, laid out a fold of my cloak, and parked Jemmy on it on his hands and knees, pulling the soggy clout off without

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