naley appreciation week: day 5 ⇒ favourite quotes There’s only a couple of things that I’m certain of in life and one of them is that matter what happens, you’re gonna be the one wheeling me around when I’m 80.
At the same time Jamie asked, in a similarly accusatory tone, “How much do ye weigh, Sassenach?”
Still a bit addled, I actually replied “Nine stone,” before thinking to ask “Why?”
“Ye nearly crushed my liver,” he answered, gingerly prodding the affected area. “Not to mention scaring living hell out of me.” He reached a hand down and hauled me to my feet. “Are ye all right?”
“No, I bumped my head.” Rubbing the spot, I looked dazedly around the bare hallway. “What did I bang it on?” I demanded ungrammatically.
“My head,” he said, rather grumpily, I thought.
“Serves you right,” I said nastily. “What were you doing, sneaking about outside my door?”
He gave me a testy look.
“I wasna ‘sneaking about,’ for God’s sake. I was sleeping— or trying to.” He rubbed what appeared to be a knot forming on his temple.
“Sleeping? Here?” I looked up and down the cold, bare, filthy hallway with exaggerated amazement. “You do pick the oddest places; first stables, now this.”
“It may interest ye to know that there’s a small party of English dragoons stopped in to the taproom below,” he informed me coldly. “They’re a bit gone in drink, and disporting themselves a bit reckless with two women from the town. Since there’s but the two lasses, and five men, some of the soldiers seemed a bit inclined to venture upward in search of … ah, partners. I didna think you’d care overmuch for such attentions.” He flipped his plaid back over his shoulder and turned in the direction of the stairway. “If I was mistaken in that impression, then I apologize. I’d no intention of disturbin’ your rest. Good e’en to ye.”
“Wait a minute.” He stopped, but did not turn back, forcing me to walk around him. He looked down at me, polite but distant.
“Thank you,” I said. “It was very kind of you. I’m sorry I stepped on you.”
He smiled then, his face changing from a forbidding mask to its usual expression of good humor.
“No harm done, Sassenach,” he said. “As soon as the headache goes away and the cracked rib heals, I’ll be good as new.”
He turned back and pushed open the door of my room, which had swung shut in the wake of my hasty exit, owing to the fact that the builder had apparently constructed the inn without benefit of a plumb line. There wasn’t a right angle in the place.
“Go back to bed, then,” he suggested. “I’ll be here.”
I looked at the floor. Besides its essential hardness and coldness, the oaken boards were blotched with expectorations, spills, and forms of filth I didn’t wish even to contemplate. The builder’s mark in the door lintel had said 1732, and that was plainly the last time the boards had been cleaned.
“You can’t sleep out here,” I said. “Come in; at least the floor in the room isn’t quite this bad.”
Jamie froze, hand on the doorframe.
“Sleep in your room with ye?” He sounded truly shocked. “I couldna do that! Your reputation would be ruined!”
He really meant it. I started to laugh, but converted it into a tactful coughing fit. Given the exigencies of road travel, the crowded state of the inns, and the crudity or complete lack of sanitary facilities, I was on terms of such physical intimacy with these men, Jamie included, that I found the idea of such prudery hilarious.
“You’ve slept in the same room with me before,” I pointed out, when I had recovered a bit. “You and twenty other men.”
He sputtered a bit. “That isna at all the same thing! I mean, it was a quite public room, and …” He paused as an awful thought struck him. “You didna think I meant that you were suggesting anything improper?” he asked anxiously. “I assure ye, I—”
“No, no. Not at all.” I made haste to reassure him that I had taken no offense.
Seeing that he could not be persuaded, I insisted that at the least he must take the blankets from my bed to lie upon. He agreed to this reluctantly, and only upon my repeated assurances that I would not use them myself in any case, but intended to sleep as usual in the cover of my thick traveling cloak.
I tried to thank him again, as I paused by the makeshift pallet before returning to my fetid sanctuary, but he waved away my appreciation with a gracious hand.