Dans un autre monde - Part 9
Part 8 is available here
Author note: At long last here’s Part 9 of Dans un autre monde. I am so sorry for the delay in giving this new chapter, but I received some life changing news in the last couple of months. My mother who has been the epitome of health her whole life was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being as close as I am to her it obviously turned my world upside down. She is currently going through chemo and hopefully will get through this. But enough with that (or I’m gonna start crying again), I think you’ve been waiting long enough, right?
The awkwardness of that first Christmas at the rectory would be the last of my interaction with Frank, at least face to face. He quickly left Inverness before New Year and by April the Reverend told me he had moved to America, having been offered a position at Harvard in their History Department.
If I thought that knowing what I was looking for would make the search easier, I was greatly mistaken. The Reverend hadn’t been jesting when he said the Scottish lawyers of the era had petitioned for everything and anything. It was six months into my inquest that I realized how unhealthy it was to spend all my spare moments searching through endless papers. And so with the help of Mrs Graham and her friend Aileen I took a part time position as a triage nurse at the new A&E at the Infirmary. So during my shifts either Mrs Graham or her daughter-in-law would watch over Brianna while Faith was enrolled at the nearby nursery school. I had expected my eldest daughter to suffer from separation anxiety and throw one of her famous Fraser temper tantrum when I dropped her off on her first day, but she simply hugged me and went running to the other children, barely turning back to say “bye mama”. I spent several hours warily wandering the nearby streets pushing Brianna’s pram until it was time to pick Faith up. And instead of a teary daughter waiting for me at the end of the day, I was met by a cheerful one.
“Mama! Me made fwiends!”
By Brianna’s first birthday, I was beginning to think it would take twenty years before I could find proof that Jamie was the Dun Bonnet. That is until a couple of weeks before Christmas, when we received a new batch of documents from the Reverend’s friend at the National Archives. For the first time since I started helping the Reverend with his search I found several names I recognized and knew.
It was a document dating from 1747 regarding the Oath to the King taken by a young Laird, barely 12 years of age, a young Laird named Hamish MacKenzie. The document had been witnessed by his mother, Letitia MacKenzie, and Edward Gowan, a lawyer from Edinburgh. Ned… Of course, Ned was the key to this search! Any documents I would have gathered to exonerate Jamie would have to be presented to the authorities by a lawyer. And there was only one lawyer I trusted back in the 18th century, Ned Gowan.
“Reggie, I think I might have a lead…”
“A lead, ye say?”
“You said the Dun Bonnet was a Highlander Laird, right?”
He nodded, setting his cup of tea on a nearby table that wasn’t nearly collapsing under the weight of several books.
“Look at this document, it’s the Oath to the King taken by the young Laird of Clan MacKenzie upon his twelfth birthday. See the name of the witness, Edward Gowan? His name comes back in several other documents pertaining to different other Highlands Clans. From what I gathered this Mister Gowan was a lawyer settled in Edinburgh, but who worked mainly as some sort of traveling solicitor. He seemed to have been highly regarded throughout the Highlands…”
He took the document, careful even if it was a copy.
“Gowan, ye say? Yes… I remember seeing that name more than once… Ye really think he might be the key to our search?”
“I think so… Do you think your friend at the Archives could send us every document they might have connected to this Mister Gowan?”
He frowned. “It might take a while, me dear…”
And a while it took. Winter made way to spring and by midsummer we still hadn’t received anything from London. By the end of July I decided to use my vacation times from the hospital and treat the girls to a short trip. We spent a couple of days on the beaches of Aberdeen and, upon our return to Inverness, were welcome by several boxes filling the living room of the rectory.
“Claire! At last, ye are here! They’re here, me dear!”
“The documents from the Archives? Reggie, you should have phoned me!”
“Nonsense, me dear! Ye and yer girls needed that short holiday.”
And so began the real search. Mrs Graham and her daughter-in-law were kind enough to entertain Roger, Faith and Brianna while the Reverend and I spent all our spare time buried in 200 years old paperwork.
It was strange, searching those papers and finding the names of people I knew, people I had met. Each time I would get emotional, fighting tears that were begging to be shed. But there were also times where I was nearly gleeful at the suffering of people I hated, people who had made my life a living hell. I have no shame to say I was glad when I found the Order of Execution of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.
The breakthrough in the search came one Saturday in August. Mrs Graham was busying herself in the kitchen, preparing for the Parish annual baking sale, while the Reverend was working on his sermon in his study. Mrs Graham-the-younger, the senior Mrs Graham’s daughter-in-law, had taken Roger and the girls for a picnic in the countryside, allowing me some time to go through the ton of paperwork.
At first glance it was yet again another official looking document. At first glance… I nearly set it aside until I realized it was written in French.
“Nous, Louis, par la grâce de Dieu, roi de France et de Navarre…”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading and it took me a while to fully translate it. And once I did I knew that I had found part of the proof I was looking for.
“We, Louis, by the grace of God, king of France and Navarre, declare that on the fifth day of December in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and forty-four, after having negotiated with an emissary of his Majesty King George of Great Britain, We delivered to James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Laird of Broch Tuarach of Scotland, a full pardon from the British authority. Thus Laird Broch Tuarach took leave from Us and from the Kingdom of France in order to return to his estate…”
Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! This proved that Jamie couldn’t have signed Prince Charles list of Highland Lairds supporters and that his signature had been forged! But this must not be all… There must be more… And so I went through the whole box and at the very bottom of it laid two pieces of papers that left me breathless and teary eyed. The first was a letter from the Duke of Cumberland to William Grant, Lord Advocate of Scotland.
“… It has come to our attention that James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Laird of Broch Tuarach in Scotland, has been branded a traitor to the Crown and has been since wanted by the authorities to answer for his supposed crimes during the failed rebellion… Laird Broch Tuarach approached Fort William’s garrison commander, Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall, Esq., in the early months of Seventeen Hundred and Forty-Four with the intention of infiltrating the Jacobite movement… Laird Broch Tuarach gained access to Charles Edward Stuart while sojourning in France… Returned to Scotland in the early days of Seventeen Hundred and Forty-Five… Took command under Charles Edward Stuart while reporting the Jacobites’ advances to Captain Randall who acted as his liaison… Captain Randall perished at the Battle of Culloden… Laird Broch Tuarach survived… We command that the good name of Laird Broch Tuarach be reinstate and that all his lands and holdings be returned to him…”
The second was a copy of an official proclamation probably sent to all Scottish garrisons regarding the innocence of one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Laird Broch Tuarach…
I don’t know how long I spent staring at those documents… Time seemed to freeze as I felt my vision blurred by unshed tears.
I jumped, the Reverend and Mrs Graham were standing in front of me, worried looks plastered on their faces.
“Claire… Are ye alright, me dear? See, Mrs Graham, I told ye she’s not responding…”
“Reverend, why don’t ye go and get us something to drink. I think our Claire could really use a dram of scotch.”
The Reverend frowned before sighing and heading to his study to get the scotch.
“Claire, dear, ye look as if someone walked on yer grave!”
“I… I found him, Mrs Graham. I found the Dun Bonnet and…”
“Ye found him? Well, why didnae ye tell the Reverend? He’ll be the happiest man on…”
“The Dun Bonnet is Jamie, Mrs Graham!”
“What… But… How…”
I told her about my suspicions once I heard the legend of the Dun Bonnet, how it felt as if Reggie was telling Jamie’s story.
“And now I have proofs! Proofs that not only the Dun Bonnet is real, but that it’s Jamie! Jamie survived, Mrs Graham, and according to the legend…”
“According to the legend, his lady wife is the one who cleared his name… Claire… Ye have to tell the Reverend, ye have to tell him everything! How ye went through the Stones, how ye found yerself in the past…”
“Reggie won’t believe me…”
“What will I won’t believe?” asked the Reverend, holding a decanter and three glasses.
I took a deep breath, thinking about how I could probably tell the Reverend…
“Reggie… Do you know the song The Woman of Balnain?”
“Aye, it is an old folk song… About a woman taken by the fairies, I think, and traveled to a faraway land to live among strangers…”
Mrs Graham squeezed my hand. “Go ahead, Claire. Tell him.”
“What if I told you that I was the woman of Balnain… Back in 1945, I went to Craigh na Dun and upon touching the largest Stone I was transported to 1743. I lived among strangers, married one of them, fell in love with him, bear his daughter…”
I couldn’t decipher his expression. Did he think me mad?
“You don’t believe me…”
“What ye are telling me, Claire… Well, it is quite a tale… Fairy hill, time traveling through the Stones… Ye are right to think anybody wouldn’t believe ye, but I’m nae anybody, me dear. I’m a Scot. I was raised with stories of fairies and people disappearing, of the magic surrounding Craigh na Dun, though most of me life I thought them to be old wives’ tales. But I do believe ye, me dear Claire.”
I bursted in tears and threw myself at him, hugging him.
“Thank you, Reggie. Thank you for believing me!”
“Ye don’t need to thank me… Although ye could have told me sooner, me dear. Two years is a long time to keep such a secret and from what I can see ye had already told Mrs Graham… I feel quite left off…”
I laughed through my tears.
“Now… Will ye tell me what got ye so emotional earlier? I ken you didnae tell me yer secret for nothing…”
I carefully handed him the letter from King Louis, the one from the Duke of Cumberland and the proclamation.
“I found the Dun Bonnet, Reggie.”
“Ye… ye did?! Claire, it’s…”
He swiftly read the documents and for a moment he looked like a giddy schoolboy.
“That name… James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser… Yer lassies’ father?”
I nodded, not trusting my own voice.
“Will ye tell me yer story, Claire? Yer whole story, from the beginning?”
“I’ll leave ye two to it” said Mrs Graham with a smile. “I’ve already heard it and I still have some baking to do…”
And so I told the Reverend everything, starting with my first encounter with Jack Randall and subsequent saving by Murtagh. He didn’t stop me once to ask questions, but I could feel he was enthralled by my tale. For an avid historian like him, especially one interested by the Jacobites era, this was heaven for him. I was coming to the end of my story, how Jamie had gotten me and Faith to Craigh na Dun when the entrance door came bursting open and the sound of Faith, Brianna and Roger’s crying filled the Rectory.
“Mama!” shouted my youngest.
“Bree, darling, what’s the matter?”
“Roger, lad, why are ye all crying?”
At the grand old age of 9, Roger wasn’t known to cry for nothing, so something must have happened. Before the sweet lad could answer, the younger Mrs Graham came in, carrying her own daughter Fiona.
“Reverend, Miss Beauchamp, I think yer lad and lassies might have some ear infection… We were having a picnic, then they started complaining about their ears…”
“Mama, they scweamed!” sobbed Faith. “They were so loud, mama!”
I frowned. “What was so loud? Roger, what is she talking about?”
“The sound, auntie Claire, the sound was awful!”
“Where did you say you went on your picnic?”
“Just outside the city, Miss Beauchamp. Near this hill, Craigh na Dun.”