Part One: Chapter Six, Part Two
November 1st, 1744;
Somewhere between Inverness and Lallybroch, Scotland.
The channel crossing was uneventful to say the least. Jamie spent the entire voyage passed out drunk on his bunk, and Julia joined him in peaceful slumber for most of it. The overland leg of our journey was proving to be more of a challenge.
“Stop. I can’t take this,” I said, reigning in my horse and dismounting in one movement. “Please, Jamie, give her to me.”
Jamie brought his mount up next to me and handed down our screaming daughter. He was handling her tears about as well as I was, his face drawn in concern. “I’m sorry, Sassenach, I canna settle her.”
I had made sure she was fed and dry when we left the inn, but the combination of irregular movement, inclement weather, and increased tension was enough to tip Julia right over the edge of colic and into the chasm of complete and utter despondency.
I sat down on a wet boulder, back to the road, and loosened the blankets she was bundled in. Taking a swift look at her nappy, I found it still dry. She had just eaten and wasn’t acting hungry, but loosened my stays just in case. Julia wasn’t even the slightest bit interested in nursing. I held her hands in mine and checked another item off the list: she wasn’t cold. The weather was stereotypically Scottish, rainy and chilly. We had taken great pains to shelter Julia from the elements, but, still, November was not an ideal month for an infant to travel.
Not wet, not hungry, not cold.
“What is it, darling? Will you please show me what’s wrong?” I begged my infant daughter, pulling my earasaid tighter around us both.
I tried everything I could think of. I rocked, I patted, I walked, I bounced: everything that usually worked and then some. After ten fruitless minutes, I lowered myself back down on the rock and joined Julia in her misery, my hot tears warming chilled cheeks.
Jamie knelt beside me and took my face in his hands, “What can I do, mo chridhe?”
“I don’t know,” I sobbed.
“Then let me tell ye what I ken, aye?” He wiped my tears away with his thumb, caressing my cheekbone.
He was calm. How in bloody hell could he be so calm when his daughter had been for over an hour and showed no signs of stopping?
His voice was low and even, steady and sure as the massive boulder I was sitting on. His eyes were clear and bright, never straying from mine. His gaze loosened the stronghold of panic on my heart. It always did.
“I ken I love ye more than life itself and, in spite of all the heartache I’ve caused ye, I ken ye love me too. I ken that ye are the most beautiful woman this side of heaven. I ken ye are a wonderful mother to our bairn and ye are doing everything in your power to make sure she is well and happy.”
Julia let out a shriek that told her father just exactly how far from happy she was, making Jamie smile at the perfect timing. “I also ken that she is your daughter and canna resist speaking her mind.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his wry grin, “Oh, my daughter, is she? She’s a stubborn Scot if I ever met one.”
“Oh, aye. I ken that too, Sassenach.” He brought his face close, his nose nuzzling my neck. “But I ken it’s her stubborn, warrior’s spirit that will keep her wi’ us.”
“That’s what Master Raymond called her. Did I tell you that? He said she was my petit guerrier.”
“Aye, ye did and she is that,” he agreed as he gently took Julia from my arms. “Let me have a turn wi’ mo beag laoch.”
“Leoch?” I raised an eyebrow.
He smiled and shook his head, “Nae, but it sounds close,
Sassenach. Laoch is a warrior or
With that, he rose and began his usual calming routine.
The two of them had become inseparable in the weeks after Jamie retuned to me. They had their own secret language, similar to the whispers of motherhood, but something indescribably unique. He tucked her up firmly against his chest, swaying gently, murmuring Gaelic reassurances in her ear. They walked back and forth in front of me. With each pass, Julia became less and less distraught. Soon, Julia settled into contentment and was silent. Jamie stopped pacing in front of me, grinning from ear to ear.
I glared back up at him, “That’s not fair.”
“Aye, well, dinna fash, Sassenach, I think ye had her most of the way there. Do the two of ye want to try the wagon with Murtagh?” He helped me up from the rock and lead us back towards the horses.
“No,” I responded immediately, shuddering at the thought of bumping along in a poorly made wagon on deeply rutted roads with a colicky three month old. ”I think she should ride with you again. You seemed to have charmed her into silence, maybe you can get her fall asleep.”
Jamie apparently took my suggestion as a personal challenge, for less than twenty minutes later, Julia had settled into a shallow slumber as we plodded thru the dripping Scottish Highlands. The road, more like a path at this point, began to discourage side-by-side travel, forcing me to fall in line behind them. Fergus had joined me in the saddle when we remounted and seemed to be dozing as well. He leaned heavily against my back, arms loose about my waist.
I watched Jamie turn this way and that, taking in the beauty of his homeland. I could hear him speaking, but the wind swept away his words before I could make out what he was saying. His voice was animated, and I could only imagine the stories he was telling Julia. Heeling my mount when the road finally allowed, I pulled up along side him.
“How’s she doing?” I asked nervously. I knew she wasn’t crying, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t unhappy.
He peeked under his plaid and smiled down at his daughter, “She’s found her thumb, Sassenach. All is well.”