hoosie

“Wife?”

“Jamie?” The voice sounded rather startled. Despite the fact that I had not heard it in twenty years, I recognized it at once. Rolling over, I surreptitiously lifted a corner of the quilt and peeked out beneath it.

“Well, of course it’s me,” Jamie was saying, rather testily. “Have ye no got eyes, man?” He pulled his brother-in-law, Ian, into the room and shut the door.

“I see well enough it’s you,” Ian said, with a note of sharpness. “I just didna ken whether to believe my eyes!” His smooth brown hair showed threads of gray, and his face bore the lines of a good many years’ hard work. But Joe Abernathy had been right; with his first words, the new vision merged with the old, and this was the Ian Murray I had known before.

“I came here because the lad at the printshop said ye’d no been there last night, and this was the address Jenny sends your letters to,” he was saying. He looked round the room with wide, suspicious eyes, as though expecting something to leap out from behind the armoire. Then his gaze flicked back to his brother-in-law, who was making a perfunctory effort to secure his makeshift loincloth.

“I never thought to find ye in a kittle-hoosie, Jamie!” he said. “I wasna sure, when the…the lady answered the door downstairs, but then—”

“It’s no what ye think, Ian,” Jamie said shortly.

“Oh, it’s not, aye? And Jenny worrying that ye’d make yourself ill, living without a woman so long!” Ian snorted. “I’ll tell her she needna concern herself wi’ your welfare. And where’s my son, then, down the hall with another o’ the harlots?”

“Your son?” Jamie’s surprise was evident. “Which one?”

Ian stared at Jamie, the anger on his long, half-homely face fading into alarm.

“Ye havena got him? Wee Ian’s not here?”

“Young Ian? Christ, man, d’ye think I’d bring a fourteen-year-old lad into a brothel?”

Ian opened his mouth, then shut it, and sat down on the stool.

“Tell ye the truth, Jamie, I canna say what ye’d do anymore,” he said levelly. He looked up at his brother-in-law, jaw set. “Once I could. But not now.”

“And what the hell d’ye mean by that?” I could see the angry flush rising in Jamie’s face.

Ian glanced at the bed, and away again. The red flush didn’t recede from Jamie’s face, but I saw a small quiver at the corner of his mouth. He bowed elaborately to his brother-in-law.

“Your pardon, Ian, I was forgettin’ my manners. Allow me to introduce ye to my companion.” He stepped to the side of the bed and pulled back the quilts.

“No!” Ian cried, jumping to his feet and looking frantically at the floor, the wardrobe, anywhere but at the bed.

“What, will ye no give your regards to my wife, Ian?” Jamie said.

“Wife?” Forgetting to look away, Ian goggled at Jamie in horror. “Ye’ve marrit a whore?” he croaked.

“I wouldn’t call it that, exactly,” I said. Hearing my voice, Ian jerked his head in my direction.

“Hullo,” I said, waving cheerily at him from my nest of bedclothes. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?”

Voyager, Diana Gabaldon

I caught sight of a tall male figure standing in the hall, and promptly pulled the bedclothes over my head.

This was a reaction of pure panic, for if it had been the Edinburgh constable or one of his minions, I could scarcely expect much protection from a couple of quilts. But then the visitor spoke, and I was glad that I was safely out of sight for the moment. 

“Jamie?” The voice sounded rather startled. Despite the fact that I had not heard it in twenty years, I recognized it at once. Rolling over, I surreptitiously lifted a corner of the quilt and peeked out beneath it. 

“Well, of course it’s me,” Jamie was saying, rather testily. “Have ye no got eyes, man?” He pulled his brother-in-law, Ian, into the room and shut the door. 

“I see well enough it’s you,” Ian said, with a note of sharpness. “I just didna ken whether to believe my eyes!” His smooth brown hair showed threads of gray, and his face bore the lines of a good many years’ hard work. But Joe Abernathy had been right; with his first words, the new vision merged with the old, and this was the Ian Murray I had known before. 

“I came here because the lad at the printshop said ye’d no been there last night, and this was the address Jenny sends your letters to,” he was saying. He looked round the room with wide, suspicious eyes, as though expecting something to leap out from behind the armoire. Then his gaze flicked back to his brother-in-law, who was making a perfunctory effort to secure his makeshift loincloth. 

“I never thought to find ye in a kittle-hoosie, Jamie!” he said. “I wasna sure, when the … the lady answered the door downstairs, but then—” 

“It’s no what ye think, Ian,” Jamie said shortly. 

“Oh, it’s not, aye? And Jenny worrying that ye’d make yourself ill, living without a woman so long!” Ian snorted. “I’ll tell her she needna concern herself wi’ your welfare. And where’s my son, then, down the hall with another o’ the harlots?” 

“Your son?” Jamie’s surprise was evident. “Which one?” 

Ian stared at Jamie, the anger on his long, half-homely face fading into alarm. 

“Ye havena got him? Wee Ian’s not here?” 

“Young Ian? Christ, man, d’ye think I’d bring a fourteen-year-old lad into a brothel?” 

Ian opened his mouth, then shut it, and sat down on the stool. 

“Tell ye the truth, Jamie, I canna say what ye’d do anymore,” he said levelly. He looked up at his brother-in-law, jaw set. “Once I could. But not now.” 

“And what the hell d’ye mean by that?” I could see the angry flush rising in Jamie’s face. 

Ian glanced at the bed, and away again. The red flush didn’t recede from Jamie’s face, but I saw a small quiver at the corner of his mouth. He bowed elaborately to his brother-in-law. 

“Your pardon, Ian, I was forgettin’ my manners. Allow me to introduce ye to my companion.” He stepped to the side of the bed and pulled back the quilts. 

“No!” Ian cried, jumping to his feet and looking frantically at the floor, the wardrobe, anywhere but at the bed. 

“What, will ye no give your regards to my wife, Ian?” Jamie said. 

“Wife?” Forgetting to look away, Ian goggled at Jamie in horror. “Ye’ve marrit a whore?” he croaked. 

“I wouldn’t call it that, exactly,” I said. Hearing my voice, Ian jerked his head in my direction. 

“Hullo,” I said, waving cheerily at him from my nest of bedclothes. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?” 

I’d always thought the descriptions of what people did when seeing ghosts rather exaggerated, but had been forced to revise my opinions in light of the responses I had been getting since my return to the past. Jamie had fainted dead away, and if Ian’s hair was not literally standing on end, he assuredly looked as though he had been scared out of his wits. 

Eyes bugging out, he opened and closed his mouth, making a small gobbling noise that seemed to entertain Jamie quite a lot. 

“That’ll teach ye to go about thinkin’ the worst of my character,” he said, with apparent satisfaction. Taking pity on his quivering brother-in-law, Jamie poured out a tot of brandy and handed him the glass. “Judge not, and ye’ll no be judged, eh?” 

I thought Ian was going to spill the drink on his breeches, but he managed to get the glass to his mouth and swallow. 

“What—” he wheezed, eyes watering as he stared at me. “How—?” 

“It’s a long story,” I said, with a glance at Jamie. He nodded briefly. We had had other things to think about in the last twenty-four hours besides how to explain me to people, and under the circumstances, I rather thought explanations could wait.

-Voyager